United Nations and possibly US sanctions imposed on Libya could be lifted as early as the end of this week, said informed diplomatic sources on Tuesday.

However, they stressed the UN sanctions would not be lifted unless Tripoli actually followed through on a stated commitment to accept responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which claimed 270 lives.

Libya has agreed to send a letter to the UN Security Council, admitting it was behind the attack on the Boeing 747 that blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, William Burns, who is now in the Middle East, is to return on Wednesday to Washington to brief the families of the victims and the US Congress on the agreement with Libya.

No public announcement of the deal is expected until the families have been notified, said the sources.

Stage is set

The Camp Zeist trial in 2001
re
sulted in one conviction

The last hurdles of the deal appear to have been resolved at a working-level meeting of US, British and Libyan diplomats on Monday in London, according to the sources.

The US State Department declined to comment on whether an agreement had been reached, but Deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said the sides were approaching a settlement.

The British Foreign Office has declined to give details of the London talks, but has said they were “constructive”.

Libyan leader, Col Muammar Qadhafi, has told various US media outlets that he believes the Lockerbie case is “about to be closed”.

Tripoli’s acceptance of responsibility for the bombing would immediately follow signing of a $2.7 billion settlement deal with the families of the victims, according to lawyers negotiating the deal.

Libya would pay each of the families of the victims $10 million in instalments, based on the lifting of sanctions and Tripoli’s removal from Washington's list of alleged sponsors of “terrorism”.

UN sanctions were suspended, then lifted after Tripoli handed over two former Libyan intelligence agents in the case, one of whom was convicted by a Scottish court, convened in the Netherlands in January 2001.

The lifting of the world body’s embargo would pave the way for talks between Tripoli and Washington about the lifting of US sanctions.