Bri­tish leader: no BP-Libya in­quiry

Prime min­is­ter re­buts claim that BP pushed to free Locker­bie bomber

Austin American-Statesman - - WEDNESDAY BRIEFING - By Steven Thomma

WASHINGTON — Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron on Tues­day re­jected calls for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Bri­tish govern­ment’s re­lease last year of a con­victed bomber, dis­miss­ing charges that oil gi­ant BP en­gi­neered the re­lease to win oil busi­ness in Libya.

Mak­ing his first visit to the White House since tak­ing of­fice in May, Cameron con­demned the de­ci­sion to re­lease the Locker­bie bomber — just as he did a year ago when he was lead­ing the Con­ser­va­tive Party op­po­si­tion to the Bri­tish govern­ment run then by the La­bor Party.

“This was the biggest mass mur­derer in Bri­tish his­tory, and there was no busi­ness in let­ting him out of prison,” Cameron said.

The re­lease last year was con­tro- ver­sial and emo­tional for the fam­i­lies of those killed when a bomb blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Locker­bie, Scot­land, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing 270 peo­ple, 189 of them Amer­i­cans.

Ab­del Baset al-Me­grahi was con­victed in the bomb­ing. He was serv­ing a life sen­tence when Scot­tish au­thor­i­ties re­leased him last Au­gust to re­turn to Libya, say­ing he had can­cer and less than three months to live. He re­ceived a hero’s wel­come in Libya and is still alive.

Cameron said he’s seen no ev­i­dence to sup­port al­le­ga­tions that oil gi­ant BP pres­sured the govern­ment in Scot­land to re­lease Me­grahi in ex­change for Libyan oil con­tracts.

“I haven’t seen any­thing to sug­gest that the Scot­tish govern­ment were in any way swayed by BP,” Cameron said at a joint news con­fer­ence at the White House with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“They were swayed by their con­sid­er­a­tions about the need to re­lease him on com­pas­sion­ate grounds — grounds that I think were com­pletely wrong,” Cameron said.

Lack­ing any ev­i­dence of a pris­oner-for-oil swap, he said, “I don’t need an in­quiry to tell me what was a bad de­ci­sion. It was a bad de­ci­sion.”

Obama de­clined to push for a Bri­tish in­ves­ti­ga­tion but said he’d wel­come it.

“All of us here in the United States were sur­prised, dis­ap­pointed and an­gry about the re­lease of the Locker­bie bomber,” Obama said. “We wel­come any ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion.”

Anger at BP’s mas­sive oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico re­newed this griev­ance, rais­ing anew ques­tions about whether BP had pres­sured the Bri­tish govern­ment to re­lease Me­grahi to Libya so that BP could win deep­wa­ter drilling rights there.

BP says it never dis­cussed Me­grahi, but the com­pany ac­knowl­edges that it urged the Bri­tish govern­ment to sign a gen­eral pris­oner trans­fer agree­ment with Libya. In May 2007, the Bri­tish and Libyan gov­ern­ments signed a mem­o­ran­dum agree­ing to ne­go­ti­ate pris­oner trans­fers. The same month, BP signed an oil agree­ment with Libya.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais

‘I haven’t seen any­thing to sug­gest that the Scot­tish govern­ment were in any way swayed by BP,’ Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron, left, says dur­ing a White House news con­fer­ence Tues­day with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

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