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News Briefs

Libya to Pay More in Bombing; U.N. Free to Lift Sanctions


The families of victims killed in a 1989 terrorist attack on a French airliner said on Monday that they had reached a preliminary agreement with Libya that would eventually provide extra financial compensation. The agreement clears the way for a U.N. vote on Friday to lift sanctions against the government of the Libyan leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

This week France forced a delay in the sanctions vote to give more time for negotiations over the settlement between the families and Libya and to keep pressure on Libya to pay additional compensation to the families of the 170 victims that died when a UTA airliner blew up over Niger. With the agreement signed on Thursday France said it would now support a vote on sanctions. Neither side would give any details of the agreement.

“France naturally has no more opposition to the U.N. Security Council voting for the lifting of sanctions against Libya as quickly as possible in New York,” the foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said at a news conference on Thursday evening.

Libya had previously paid about $34 million to the UTA victims, but France objected last month when Gadhafi’s government agreed to pay $2.7 billion to families of victims killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, arguing that the UTA families should get a comparable sum.

France has said that the UTA families received only $3,000 to $30,000 each because the airline and its insurer got the bulk of the earlier award. It said it would veto any resolution to lift the sanctions imposed on Libya in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing until the country had satisfied the UTA families’ demands for more equitable treatment.

Union and Auto Makers Close To Historic Agreement


The Big Three and the United Auto Workers are on the brink of an unprecedented early and simultaneous resolution to their contract talks, people close to the negotiations said.

The parties are looking to wrap up negotiations before midnight Sunday, when the four-year labor contracts expire. Reaching an accord at all three companies would be a historic sign of unity between the union and management, but time is running short and hiccups have a way of derailing negotiations.

“Two weeks ago, I thought the odds were fairly high against it,” said Buzz Hargrove, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, referring to the chances for an early, three-in-one deal for the United Auto Workers, which has never happened before.

“I still find it highly unlikely but not impossible,” Hargrove added, “because there really is a clear effort to do it at all three.”

Representatives at Ford Motor, General Motors and the Chrysler Group unit of DaimlerChrysler and the union would not comment substantively on the talks.

Traditionally, the union picks one company as a target and negotiates an agreement with it. That first deal becomes the framework the others follow. Negotiations with the target company traditionally go up to the deadline, and sometimes beyond it, and are often contentious.

White House to Reopen for Tours


More than two years after closing to the general public, the White House and the rotunda of the National Archives are resuming access.

The White House, which stopped public tours after the Sept. 11 attacks, will resume them on Tuesday. Arranged tours for school, youth, military and veterans’ groups have been available since February 2002, although the White House temporarily closed last spring during the conflict in Iraq.

The rotunda of the National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, closed in 2001, for renovations and conservation of the documents. It reopens next Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the White House, Ashley Snee, said, “The tour policy and procedures have been under review and consideration for the last 18 months, with a goal to make tours more available.”

For the White House tour, a visitor has to contact the office of a member of Congress, which will initiate a security clearance and make reservations. Visitors will be able to see the State Floor, which includes the East Room, the State Dining Room and the Blue, Red and Green Rooms, Snee said.

Lawyers to Pocket $30M In Clergy Abuse Settlement


The $85 million settlement in the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal will set a record not only as the most expensive abuse settlement in the history of the Catholic Church, but also as the largest payday for lawyers who sued on behalf of victims: an estimated $30 million in legal fees, lawyers said.

That figure has angered some victims and advocates, who say those abused by clergy will get far less money as a result, but others say the customary 33 percent cut, plus expenses, is fair, stressing that they could not have sued the Archdiocese of Boston had they been forced to pay legal fees up front.

The tentative agreement was unanimously ratified Wednesday afternoon during a meeting at a downtown Boston hotel with the 57 attorneys representing 552 alleged victims of abuse, who must persuade 80 percent of their clients to sign on for it to become effective.

“They are raking in millions of dollars and just using victims, propping them up in front of press conferences so other clients will come in and hire them,” said John Sacco, a victim of defrocked priest John Geoghan who was killed in prison and had settled an earlier case with the archdiocese.