British leader: no BP-Libya inquiry
Prime minister rebuts claim that BP pushed to free Lockerbie bomber
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.
‘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.