updated 2/25/2004 6:34:36 PM ET 2004-02-25T23:34:36

Libya on Wednesday reversed its prime minister and confirmed that it was responsible for blowing up Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 and killing 270 people.

The statement by the Jamahiriya news agency could put back on track a plan by the Bush administration to let Americans travel to Libya.

The statement, which appeared on Libya’s web site, said Libya had helped bring two suspects to justice “and accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials.”

Referring to the statement by Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem that Libya had not acknowledged responsibility in a letter to the United Nations, the Libyan news agency said “recent statements contradicting or casting doubt on these positions are inaccurate and regrettable.”

The White House and State Department withheld an immediate judgment of the new Libyan statement.

'A bit of a disconnect'
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had not seen the Libyan agency’s statement but said he believed the prime minister’s remarks were “unfortunate.”

Powell said they were not consistent with what the United States had been hearing recently from Libya. He called the remarks “a little blip that will go away and we’ll be back on track.”

On Tuesday, in a telecast to the Arab world, Powell called Ghanem's remarks “a bit of a disconnect” and said that once Libya issued a clarification, the Bush administration would announce a lifting of the 23-year ban on Americans traveling to Libya.

“I think it’s a momentary delay,” Powell said in an interview with Al Hurra, a new television operation used by the administration to project its views to Arabs.

Previous admission of responsibility
Libya last August acknowledged in a letter to the U.N. Security Council its responsibility for the bombing of the jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, including 181 Americans.

But hours before the White House was to announce lifting of the ban on use of U.S. passports to travel to Libya, Ghanem told the BBC that Libya’s government agreed in December to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims’ families to improve relations with the West and to secure the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Libya.

Asked in the interview if the payment did not mean Libya had accepted guilt for the bombing, Ghanem replied: “I agree with that, and this is why I say we bought peace.”

“After the sanctions and after the problems we have (been) facing because of the sanctions, the loss of money, we thought that it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed to compensation,” the prime minister said in the interview, which was recorded in Libya.

No solace for victim's mother
Susan Cohen, of Cape May, N.J., whose daughter, Thea, 20, was killed in the bombing, was skeptical of the news agency statement.

“This is typical of the Libyans,” she said in a telephone interview. “They do this thing all the time. They say confusing things. This doesn’t cancel out that (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi keeps telling people they did not commit the bombing.”

Cohen said the U.S. government should demand that Gadhafi “come out and say, ’Yes, we did it.’ ”

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