THE two men suspected of causing the Lockerbie bombing could soon be handed over for trial in a neutral country, reports claimed yesterday after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi met British representatives, writes Ron MacKenna.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the 270 who died in the disaster a decade ago, and Professor Robert Black, from Edinburgh University, had a 40-minute meeting with the Libyan leader in Tripoli on Monday. They said the talks were ''of some substance'' but refused to elaborate.

However, Egypt's Middle East News Agency quoted Ibrahim el-Ghoweily, a lawyer for the suspects, as saying the two sides had agreed ''to hold the trial in a third country with a panel of judges headed by a Scottish judge and in light of Scottish law''.

The talks indicate movement towards ending the seemingly intractable problems over having the two men accused of the outrage tried. Both Britain and the United States both want to try the men but Libya has so far refused to surrender them to either country, saying they will not get a fair trial.

El-Ghoweily said Dr Swire and other representatives of British relatives will ''work to convince'' Britain and the United States ''that the trial should be held in a third country''.

Libyan officials have apparently indicated they are prepared to compromise, allowing a trial before an international panel headed by a Scottish judge.

British relatives would prefer the trial to be held in Scotland but many have indicated they would agree to it being held in a neutral country, possibly the Netherlands.

El-Ghoweily said both sides had agreed on Monday on ''the importance of avoiding prejudiced jurors and any country in which the media or other factors would influence the trial'', and wanted the hearing to take place ''as soon as possible''.

The British and American governments argue that the accused men should not be allowed to dictate conditions for their trial and they are concerned that there will be no jury.