British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was today forced to offer his support to IRA victims seeking compensation from Libya, after outrage greeted the revelation that he had told them it would not be “appropriate” for him to get involved.

Brown said he would provide dedicated Foreign Office staff to assist the victims and diplomats at the British Embassy in Tripoli would accompany and advise them when they travel to Libya to seek direct talks with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi within the next few weeks.

Speaking in Berlin, where he was holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brown said: “I care enormously about the impact of IRA terror on victims and their families and on our communities.”

Successive governments had raised the issue of Libyan support for the IRA - including the supply of Semtex which was used by republican bomb-makers in their campaign of terror in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s – over the past two decades, said Brown.

But he said that the Government judged that the most effective means of seeking compensation was not through direct official negotiations with the Libyan authorities, but by supporting the families in their legal battle.