Lockerbie suspects `to be handed over today'

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THE HANDOVER of two Libyan suspects accused of the Lockerbie bombing is expected today, more than 10 years after Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Scotland.

Barring an 11th-hour change of heart by Libya, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah will arrive in the Netherlands for trial by a Scottish court, eight years after arrest warrants were issued over the deaths of 270 people in December 1988, by a bomb in a radio cassette recorder.

The men should present themselves to UN officials at Tripoli before being flown to a special compound at Zeist in the Netherlands. Foreign Office sources said the surrender would meet the UN handover deadline of tomorrow.

Senior foreign officials arrived in Libya yesterday to witness the proceedings.The Arab League Assistant Secretary-General, Ahmed bin Hilli, and Egypt's Administrative Development Minister, Mohamed Zaki Abu Amer, have already entered Libya.

Mr Al-Megrahi and Mr Fhimah will be met by Hans Corell, assistant general secretary of the UN's office of legal affairs, and will be arrested and formally charged by Scottish police.

As part of a complex deal negotiated by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, Libya has agreed to Scottish jurisdiction in a third country on condition UN sanctions will be suspended when the men land. Norman McFadyen, Scotland's Procurator Fiscal, and Jim Brisbane of the Crown Office in Edinburgh, flew to Amsterdam yesterday.

The trial will be conducted under Scottish law heard by three judges and no jury. If found guilty, the pair will serve their sentences in a Scottish jail.