David Cameron grilled over alleged BP role in Lockerbie bomber case
At the White House to discuss Afghanistan and the global economy, British Prime Minister David Cameron was instead questioned by reporters about allegations that BP pressured Scotland to free the Lockerbie bomber in a bid to improve business ties with Libya.
Afghanistan and economic recovery may have been the preferred topics when President Obama met at the White House Tuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron. But for the press, which got a few minutes with the two leaders at an East Room press conference, the focus was BP.Skip to next paragraph
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The British oil company, which is responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, is now more deeply embroiled in controversy over allegations that it lobbied the Scottish government last year to release Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. Allegations have resurfaced in the British press that BP wanted Mr. Megrahi freed to improve prospects for oil projects in Libya.
Megrahi was ultimately released by Scotland last August on humanitarian grounds amid much international uproar.
In a spirited response to questions about BP’s alleged role in Megrahi’s release, Mr. Cameron said he supported a review of all government documents to see if any additional “information” might be released publicly to further clarify the Scottish government’s decision. But he opposes a formal inquiry into the matter – something Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for over the weekend.
Cameron, on his first US visit as prime minister, was scheduled to meet with Senate leaders later Tuesday to discuss the Megrahi issue. He noted that as leader of the opposition he had firmly opposed the decision to release Megrahi, and that he still considers it “completely wrong.” He said his government would “engage constructively” with an inquiry that Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts has said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will undertake. Most of the 270 crew and passengers killed in the 1988 airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, were American.
Mr. Obama sought to put the issue in the broader context of what he said has been life-saving US-British counterterrorism cooperation. The “extremely strong ties between our two countries in fighting terrorism shouldn’t get lost in this debate,” he said.
Obama also noted that he stood with “a British prime minister who shares our anger” over Megrahi’s release – a quip that could be heard as a dig at former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was in office at the time of Megrahi’s release and with whom Obama had a cool relationship at best.