[What follows is a Reuters news agency report from 2 January 1999:]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview published on Sunday he would appeal to South African President Nelson Mandela to persuade Libya to hand over two men suspected of the Lockerbie bombing for trial in the Netherlands. Blair, who starts a four day visit to South Africa on Tuesday, said negotiations between Britain, the United States and Libya over the 1980 airline bombing had reached an impasse.
In the interview with the Sunday Business newspaper, he said Mandela had already played a “unique and important” role in trying to resolve the controversy and he would ask the South African leader to intervene again. “I will explain that we have done all that we reasonably can to resolve the impasse over the trial. The UK-US initiative for a trial in the Netherlands has been on the table for four months,” said Blair.
“The UK-US initiative for a trial in the Netherlands has been on the table for four months. I do not for one moment accept that Scottish courts would not give a fair trial, but was prepared to go for a third-country trial because this is what the Libyan Government said it wanted. I will appeal to President Mandela to convince the Libyan government that a third country trial should now proceed,” he added.
[Mr Blair conveniently fails to mention that while four months had passed since the announcement of the UK/US scheme, four years and seven months passed after the Libyan Government and defence team accepted my “neutral venue” proposal before the UK and US published their own amended (and inferior) version. After January 1994 the delay in achieving a Lockerbie trial was attributable almost exclusively to the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. The history is outlined here.
Nelson Mandela’s rÔle in the resolution of the Lockerbie impasse can be followed here.]