Libya deal gets approval

The Senate passed a bill Thursday to let the State Department settle all remaining lawsuits against Libya by U.S. terrorism victims.

The bill paves the way for healing the last rifts between the U.S. and Libya – but only after the country fully compensates Americans harmed in Libyan-sponsored attacks, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the 1986 blast of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin.

The Senate passed the measure without objection Thursday, and the House could follow suit by the end of the week.

It creates a fund to compensate victims and grants Libya immunity from terror-related lawsuits once the secretary of state certifies they have all been fully paid.

The bill could further the administration's efforts to restore full ties between Washington and Tripoli, which have stalled over the terror claims. Congress has blocked direct aid to Libya, construction of a new U.S. Embassy there, and confirmation of the first U.S. ambassador to the nation until U.S. victims are paid.

The State Department said the measure was a good outcome for victims' families. “It will allow them the fair and just compensation that they've been seeking in an expeditious manner,” spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

“After 20 years of waiting, the (legislation) is a final step toward resolving the last payment by Libya,” Kara Weipz, a spokeswoman for the Pan Am 103 families, said in a statement.

Libya has paid the 268 families in the Pan Am settlement $8 million each, and owes them another $2 million.

Other U.S. victims, however, said the measure would deny them just compensation.

Families of the 170 people killed in the 1989 bombing of UTA flight 772 from the Republic of Congo to Paris denounced the bill. “Any settlements by other victims should not be at the expense of those who have fought and won in the courts,” they said in an open letter to Congress.