Too little, too late from Gordon Brown

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has now come out in favor of pushing Libya to pay conpensation to victims of terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army, which was aided and supplied by Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government in the 1980s. This is a reversal of his previous position on the matter:   “I care enormously about ...

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Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown gestures as he arrives for a visit to the new City Academy in east London on September 7, 2009. Gordon Brown is facing mounting questions over his government's dealings with oil-rich Libya, following the release last month of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the only man convicted over the 1988 bombing. AFP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth/WPA POOL (Photo credit should read KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has now come out in favor of pushing Libya to pay conpensation to victims of terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army, which was aided and supplied by Muammar al-Qaddafi's government in the 1980s. This is a reversal of his previous position on the matter:

 

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has now come out in favor of pushing Libya to pay conpensation to victims of terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army, which was aided and supplied by Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government in the 1980s. This is a reversal of his previous position on the matter:

 

“I care enormously about the impact of all I.R.A. atrocities on the victims, their families and friends,” Mr. Brown said at a news conference in Germany. He said the government would not negotiate directly with the Libyans in the matter, but would establish “a dedicated Foreign Office support for the victims’ campaign.”

He added, “I think it is clear that we are taking what action we believe is necessary to support the families in their difficult but necessary attempt to represent themselves with the Libyan authorities.”

This, of course, has nothing to do with a certain recent scandal over a released Libyan terrorist. In fact, Brown only shifted positions after the Times revealed that he had personally intervened to veto any government help for the victims’ families, saying that the government “does not consider it appropriate to enter into a bilateral discussion with Libya on this matter.” (For what it’s worth, the Libyans have no intention of paying.)

The general spinelessness of the Brown government’s response to the ongoing Libya scandal has been pretty breathtaking. Brown would probably have a hell of a time convincing the British public that helping these people was not “appropriate,” but at least he would be standing up for his own policies rather than cynically reversing them as soon as the public found out what he was up to. 

Up until national elections are held, we can expect a lot more of Gordon Brown going out of his way to prove that the really hates terrorists, especially Libyan ones. 

KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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