FRANCE BLOCKS LOCKERBIE DEAL….Now that the U.S. has finally signed a deal with Libya that lifts sanctions in return for compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, France is blocking the agreement unless they get a similar deal for the bombing of a UTA flight a year later:

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday that France had told the US and Britain that it would use its veto at the UN Security Council to block the resolution unless Libya boosts the amount of compensation it is paying for the 1989 bombing of a French UTA airliner.

‘The threat has been made and it is still there,’ one official said. ‘They’re trying to get a better deal for their own people by punishing the Pan Am 103 families and it’s absolutely outrageous.’

‘Blackmail is an ugly word, but that’s what the French are doing,’ a second official said. ‘They are holding the Lockerbie deal hostage.’

It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here. These negotiations have been going on for years, and if the French intended to block any deal that didn’t include increased payouts for the UTA bombing they’ve had plenty of time to make that clear. So why bring it up now?

I’ve been reading lately that the French are trying to patch things up with the U.S., but I guess they’ve abandoned that strategy, haven’t they? It’s hard to think of anything they could do to sour relations with the U.S. even further, but this is it.

POSTSCRIPT: Before anyone says it: yes, I can easily imagine the United States doing something essentially identical. But then I’ve long thought that one of the reasons France and America are at each others’ throats so often is because we’re so similar to each other: blunt, militaristic, hard bargaining, culturally arrogant language snobs monolinguists. How could two such countries ever love each other?