Friday, 16 July 2010

Hillary Clinton raises Lockerbie bomber concerns

[This is the headline over a report on the BBC News website. It reads in part:]

The US has raised concerns about the release of the Lockerbie bomber, after the foreign secretary said the decision to free him was "a mistake".

William Hague spoke to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said Britain may wish to explain the circumstances behind Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's release.

Four US senators believe oil giant BP lobbied for the move to secure a deal with Libya.

The Scottish government said Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds.

It has denied having any contact with BP before its decision last year to release the Libyan intelligence officer (...)

On Thursday, the US Senate foreign relations committee said it would ask BP officials to testify after the company admitted lobbying the British government in 2007 over a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libya.

It confirmed it did press for a PTA because it was aware that a delay might have "negative consequences" for UK commercial interests.

But the firm said it was not involved in any discussions regarding Megrahi's release.

The bomber was released in August by Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill because he was suffering terminal prostate cancer and was said to have as little as three months to live. (...)

Meanwhile, Britain's ambassador to the United States, Nigel Sheinwald, also said the new UK government disagreed with Scotland's decision to free the bomber.

However, he said the inaccuracies over the case were harmful to the UK.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The Scottish government had no contact from BP in relation to Mr Al-Megrahi.

"The issues being raised in the United States at present regarding BP refer to the Prisoner Transfer Agreement negotiated by the governments of the UK and Libya, and therefore have nothing to do with the decision on compassionate release which is a totally different process, based on entirely different criteria.

"We were always totally opposed to the prisoner transfer agreement negotiated between the UK and Libyan governments.

"The memorandum that led to the PTA was agreed without our knowledge and against our wishes."

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