Saturday, 17 July 2010

Libyan oil official: Lockerbie wasn't part of BP talks

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

A top Libyan oil official on Friday denied allegations of an agreement to free the Lockerbie bomber in exchange for bolstered BP commercial interests in the country.

Britain and Libya had sparred over whether Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi should be included in a prisoner transfer agreement the two nations were negotiating. Under the agreement, Libyan prisoners in Britain would be transferred to Libya to serve out their sentences.

British officials and BP said the oil company's interests -- mainly, seeking a huge deal to drill for oil in Libya -- were a consideration in those talks.

In the end, al Megrahi was included in the transfer agreement, but he was never transferred to a Libyan jail. Instead, he was freed on what officials in Scotland said were humanitarian grounds separate from the agreement. (...)

"I was leading the negotiations on BP," said Shokri Ghanem, chairman of the National Oil Corp of Libya, [and a former prime minister] in an interview Friday with CNN's Richard Quest.

"I was the person who was negotiating the technical [points] and the whole agreement" for the oil company to drill off the Libyan coast, he said. "I never spoke on any political [issues], not did I accept any political interference."

Ghanem insisted Friday that the oil agreement was ratified in 2007 -- two years before al Megrahi's release. (...)

Earlier Friday, Britain's ambassador to the United States, Nigel Sheinwald, said the government believes it was wrong to let al Megrahi out of prison in August 2009 and return to his native Libya, but it was a decision taken by the Scottish executive, not the British government. Scotland has its own government that is responsible for most of the day-to-day issues there, including the justice system. (...)

The ambassador's statement came a day after the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced it will hold a hearing July 29 to examine whether BP may have played a role in lobbying for al Megrahi's release.

Ghanem dismissed the announcement as political posturing. "The US can do any hearing they want, this is their business," he said. "But we're a sovereign country. ... American Congress can do whatever they want, but senators, they have to give the impression they are US senators."

No comments:

Post a Comment