Proposed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Sent Packing, Awaiting Qaddafi Cash


The Bush administration's plan for a quick resumption of relations with oil-rich Libya spent another day in limbo Thursday, idled by Muammar el-Qaddafi's failure to pony up the nearly $2 billion he still owes to the American victims of his terrorist plots in the 1980s.

The erratic dictator promised to pay the money in exchange for the resumption of full diplomatic relations in a deal negotiated last month with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Because of Qadaffi's failure to make deposit this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday refused to consider the nomination of State Department official Gene A. Cretz to be ambassador to Libya, the first U.S. envoy there since diplomatic relations were broken in 1980.

In reaffirming his hold on the nomination, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, said that while he welcomed "the recent progress on settling these claims, the process is not complete. 

"Libya has not yet satisfied its obligations to U.S. victims of its terrorist acts and I will object to this nomination's moving forward until those victims receive justice," Lautenberg said in testimony submitted for the hearing.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., affirmed Lautenburg's decision, saying, "The Committee will not be discharging Mr. Cretz, and the Senate will not be confirming his nomination, until those payments have been made in full."

The deal called for Qaddafi to deposit $1.8 billion in a Humanitarian Settlement Fund set up to compensate the families of Americans killed in the explosion of  Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in 1988 as well as U.S. servicemen killed in the bombing of a West German disco in 1986, both of which were traced to Libya.
The deal also provides compensation for Libyans killed in 1986 when U.S. planes bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for the disco attack. Forty people died, including Gaddafi's adopted baby daughter.

But there's another wild card that could spoil the resumption of relations.

Thomas Fay, a lawyer for some of the disco victims' families, has said the State Department has no authority to negotiate on behalf of his clients.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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