Cameron says Britain won't investigate release of Lockerbie bomber

By Karen Tumulty
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged Tuesday that his government will "engage constructively" with a U.S. Senate investigation of Scotland's release last summer of the man convicted in the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie. But he dismissed a call for Britain to look into whether pressure from oil giant BP influenced that decision.

"The role of BP and any lobbying they might have done is an issue for BP and an issue that they should explain themselves," Cameron said at a joint news conference with President Obama at the White House.

Cameron, who is on his first visit to the United States as prime minister, repeated his view that the decision to release the prisoner and send him home to Libya was "completely wrong." But he added, "I haven't seen anything to suggest that the Scottish government were in any way swayed by BP."

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was the only person convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people, including 189 Americans. The furor over allegations that BP might have helped bring about his release comes as public anger intensifies toward the oil giant that caused the disastrous spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing July 29 about the prisoner-transfer agreement between Britain and Libya. The panel wants to determine if the agreement was linked to BP's effort to win a $20 billion offshore oil deal that required Libya's assent.

Cameron said the Scottish decision to release the Libyan bomber -- who was said to be dying of cancer -- "was a decision which I wholly disagree with, but nonetheless was taken in an appropriate way." Megrahi is living in Tripoli.

The Obama administration has pressed the Scottish and British governments to review the decision to release him.

"We should have all the facts. They should be laid out there," Obama said at the news conference. But "that will not negate the fact that, as the prime minister indicated, it was a very poor decision."

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