EXECUTIVE Council member Professor Felice Lieh-Mak has cautioned against direct participation of government officials in the Preparatory Committee for the post-1997 government. She said yesterday there might be confusion over the role and responsibility of civil servants if they were part of the China-appointed panel, scheduled to be established next year to form the Special Administrative Region government. Government officials were accountable to the Legislative Council, said Professor Lieh-Mak. Beijing is said to have been studying whether government officials should be invited to participate in the committee and, if so, in what way. Governor Chris Patten said in his policy address last October that the Government was prepared to offer 'immediate and practical help' to the committee. Officials later said that included arrangements for a venue for their meetings in the territory. Professor Lieh-Mak said the Chinese side had raised the issue. She hoped Beijing would unveil preliminary details of the committee, such as its structure and composition, as soon as possible. Under the Basic Law, the committee will be established next year to handle handover arrangements including the formation of a 400-strong Selection Committee to choose the first chief executive. Professor Lieh-Mak also said a final settlement on the new airport should no longer be delayed. She was disappointed that the outstanding issues - the Airport Authority bill and two related financial support agreements - had not been sorted out. The outstanding issues should not be too difficult to settle, she said. The Government suddenly deferred its plan to gazette the Airport Authority bill at the end of last month after China demanded more time to study the bill. A government official said yesterday Chinese officials had raised further technical questions on the bill since then. 'We remain hopeful that the bill can be tabled to the Legislative Council soon,' she said. Financial Secretary Sir Hamish Macleod said on Sunday he was optimistic that China would soon give its approval to the bill.