Wednesday, 14 July 2010

BP must halt Libya wells, say senators seeking Lockerbie probe

[This is the headline over a report just published on the Bloomberg Businessweek website. It reads in part:]

BP plc should stop a planned drilling campaign in Libya while links between the oil producer and the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi are investigated, a group of US Senators said.

The London-based company has a rig in place to start a well in the Gulf of Sirte after completing a seismic survey last year. BP also plans to drill onshore in the Ghadames basin by the end of the year, Robert Wine, a spokesman for BP, said today.

BP, under political pressure to stop and clean up the worst oil spill in US history, signed an exploration agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corp in May 2007 during a visit by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. US senators, who yesterday asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to examine whether BP helped secure al-Megrahi’s freedom from a Scottish jail to facilitate the deal, held a press conference today demanding BP stop drilling in Libya.

“Evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems to suggest that BP would put profit ahead of people,” Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wrote in the letter to Clinton yesterday. “The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?”

Menendez, Schumer and Lautenberg held a press conference in Washington this morning “to call for BP to suspend its oil drilling plans in Libya,” Mike Morey, a spokesman for Schumer, wrote in an e-mail.

Libya has proved oil reserves of 44.3 billion barrels, the most in Africa, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. (...)

“Libya due to start in a matter of weeks,” Wine said today in an e-mail. “Rig is being made ready, final preparations and checks are underway.” (...)

“It is a matter of public record that in late 2007 BP discussed with the UK government our concern at the slow progress in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement,” the company said today.

Libya formally accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie attack in 2003 and agreed to pay up to $2.7 billion in damages to families of the victims. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi finished settling claims of US Lockerbie victims with a $1.5 billion installment last year.

The country was removed from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism in 2006 after Qaddafi agreed to give up chemical weapons and compensate Lockerbie victims.

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