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Libya has paid $US1.

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5 billion ($A2.23 billion) into a fund to compensate the families of American victims of Libyan-linked terror attacks in the 1980s, clearing a final hurdle to the full normalisation of long-strained ties between Washington and Tripoli, the State Department has said.

In exchange, under a deal worked out earlier this year, the Bush administration will restore the Libyan government's immunity from terror-related lawsuits and dismiss pending compensation cases, it said.

“Libya's decision to resolve outstanding claims through the US-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement is a laudable milestone in our bilateral relationship; providing a measure of justice to families of US victims of terrorism and clearing the way for continued and expanding US-Libyan partnership,” spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The money will go into a $US1.8 billion ($A2.68 billion) fund that will pay $US1.5 billion ($A2.23 billion) in claims for the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland and the 1986 bombing of a German disco. Another $US300 million ($A445.96 million) will go to Libyan victims of US airstrikes ordered in retaliation for the disco bombing.

Inexplicable delays

Libya has sought donations from private businesses to help cover its share of the fund. The Bush administration has vowed that no American taxpayer money will be used for the US portion but has not said where the money will come from.

The final deposit had been expected in early September but was inexplicably delayed, angering some in Congress who have thus far refused to lift holds on the nomination of a new US ambassador to Libya and funds for the construction of a new US embassy in Tripoli.

A first partial payment to the fund was received on October 9, just days after the opening of a US trade office in Libya's capital and a historic visit there last month by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was the highest-ranking US official to visit the country in more than 50 years.

Russian reconciliation

Alongside the thawing of Libya's relations with the US are signs it is also drawing closer to Russia.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi met President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday on his first visit to Russia since 1985, a

trip that could revive military ties between Tripoli and Moscow.

Arms purchases and nuclear energy are on the cards for Kadhafi's three-day visit.

Libya might also offer to host a Russian naval base at the Mediterranean port of Benghazi, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.

“Mad dog” domesticated?

US-Libyan relations hit a low point in the 1980s but began to improve after Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi – whom President Ronald Reagan called the “mad dog of the Middle East” – renounced weapons of mass destruction and terrorism in 2003.

The rapprochement stalled after Libya halted payments to the families of Lockerbie victims under a previous compensation deal that would have paid $US8 million ($A11.89 million) to each and in the absence of an agreement on the La Belle disco bombing in Berlin.

But it picked up again in August when Libya and the United States agreed to a new, comprehensive package that would cover compensation for all 1980s-era claims.

Fatal attacks

All 269 passengers and crew, including 180 Americans, on the Pan Am flight and 11 people on the ground were killed in the Lockerbie bombing.

Three people, including two American soldiers, were killed and 230 wounded in the Berlin disco attack. That attack prompted Reagan to order airstrikes on targets in Tripoli and Benghazi that Libyans say killed 41 people, including Gadhafi's adopted daughter.

The developments come amid a huge increase in interest from US firms, particularly in the energy sector, to do business in Libya, where European companies have had much greater access in recent years.

Libya's proven oil reserves are the ninth largest in the world, close to 39 billion barrels, and vast areas remain unexplored for new deposits.

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