Senate passes bill to settle Libya terror lawsuits

The Senate passed legislation Thursday to let the State Department settle all remaining lawsuits against Libya by US terror victims. The bill paves the way for healing the last rifts between the United States 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, sending it to President George W. Bush. It creates a new fund to compensate the victims and grants Libya immunity from terror-related lawsuits once the secretary of state certifies that they have all been fully paid. The measure could lend momentum to the Bush administration's attempts to restore full ties between Washington and Tripoli, which have stalled over the terror claims. Congress has blocked direct aid to Libya, the construction of a new US Embassy there, and the confirmation of the first US ambassador to the nation until US victims are paid. The State Department said the measure was a good outcome for victims' families.