LONDON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The father of one of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing said on Thursday the 10th of December 1998 he felt certain Libya would hand over two suspects in the case for trial soon, probably within weeks. Jim Swire, whose daughter was among 270 people who died when Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, said he had spoken by telephone to a Libyan official earlier on Thursday.
"I've had an encouraging phone call from Libya's permanent representative to the United Nations only today," Swire told BBC television. "And I see nothing on the horizon that would make me alter my opinion, which is that the handover will definitely occur, and that it will occur within the next few weeks."
His optimism appeared to be somewhat at odds with a report from Libya on Thursday, in which the commentator of the official news agency JANA said a decision on whether to hand over the suspects should not be expected soon. Swire acknowledged in his interview with the BBC that "there are complications." The decision on the handover would probably be referred to the 300 Libyan grassroots committees which JANA said had real authority in Libya, he said. "How long that will take I don't know," he added.
Swire, who was scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair later
on Thursday, said he would urge that any new leads arising from the trial
be followed up. "The two accused, even if they were found guilty, could
only be small minnows in a very large pond," he said.
Finally meeting the British prime minister
Later that day (10/12) dr. Swire finally met the UK prime minister Tony Blair. The meeting came less than two weeks before the 10th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people. It was the first time a prime minister had agreed to meet relatives of the disaster. The members of the UK Families Flight 103 Group, led by Dr Jim Swire, spent 50 minutes at Downing Street with Mr Blair and Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd. Lockerbie's MP, Russell Brown, and another Labour backbencher, Dr George Turner, were also at the meeting.
Dr Jim Swire, spokesman of the UK Families Group, said he wanted to thank Mr Blair for persuading the United States to accept the idea of a trial in a neutral third country. He said it was this concession which had broken the deadlock. Dr. Swire and the British relatives have been told by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair he will do everything he can to find out the truth about the disaster.
Dr Swire told BBC News he was "certain" the two prime suspects would be given up by the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and he said when the trial began he wanted the government to follow up several news lines of inquiry. Dr Swire, whose daughter Flora died at Lockerbie, said he also wanted a new inquiry to investigate how the bomb got on board the aircraft.
Dr Swire said he had received assurances from the prime minister that there would be an independent inquiry into the disaster. He told BBC News 24: "He was very receptive to the idea and we came away much encouraged that there will be a meaningful inquiry at some stage." "We were left with the impression that there would be the necessary investigation into how this appalling tragedy happened in 1988," said Swire.
"We feel without such an investigation the door is open to this happening again."
Dr Swire said Libya's permanent representative to the United Nations, Omar Dorda, had rung him on Thursday and he said he was confident the two prime suspects would be handed over by the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, "within the next few weeks". "The best estimate is a few weeks," said Swire. "Possibly the latter half of January."
A Downing Street spokesman said: "Mr Blair briefed them on the latest
developments on the progress towards a third country trial. "The
families want to discover the whole truth and the prime minister is committed
to bring these men to justice and discover the truth."