Sunday, March 21, 1999 Published at 04:51 GMT
Blair thanks Mandela Lockerbie effort
The two world leaders spoke by telephone on Saturday
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has thanked Nelson Mandela for his help in persuading Libya to hand over two suspects wanted in connection with the Lockerbie bombing.
Downing Street added that Mr Mandela had confirmed that Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had agreed to hand over the suspects by 6 April.
"The prime minister welcomed it and said he was very grateful for his work towards this," said a spokeswoman.
The April date had earlier been confirmed in a letter delivered to Mr Annan by Libya's UN Ambassador, Abuzed Dorda.
Shortly after receiving the letter, the UN head said: "It looks as if we're there".
The US and UK Governments first demanded back in 1991 that the two Libyan intellligence agents face trial over the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, in which 270 people died.
Colonel Gaddafi told the meeting he had received enough assurances from Saudi Arabian and South African mediators to allow the handover of the two men for trial in the Netherlands.
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was encouraged by the news but warned : "I am not going to start taking anything for granted just yet."
British relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims have praised the decision, although spokesman Dr Jim Swire called for the exact date of the handover to be kept secret to ensure the suspects' safety.
"These two are entitled to the presumption of innocence like anyone else," he said.
Sanctions must be lifted
The Libyan letter to the UN insists that the sanctions imposed in 1992 to try to secure the handover, be lifted within 90 days of confirmation that Libya has met with UN Security Council requirements.
The two Western allies said if Libya failed to meet the deadline, they would seek tougher UN sanctions against the country.
Mr Mandela said the deal on the handover had been worked out with the help of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah.
Both South Africa and Saudi Arabia have been playing a leading role in diplomatic efforts to resolve the deadlock over the proposed trial of the two Libyan intelligence agents.