[This is the headline over a report in The Herald by UK Political Editor Michael Settle. It reads in part:]
The US Government is deciding whether to release all of its Lockerbie files, after Alex Salmond called for full disclosure – including details of the contacts between the UK Government and BP.
With a Senate hearing just four days away, the focus is beginning to fall on the exchanges between Washington, Edinburgh and London in the run-up to the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
Louis Susman, the American ambassador to Britain, stressed the US Government is examining whether its correspondence over Megrahi could be released. “We will come up with a decision later on in relation to the hearing,” he said.
Salmond, meanwhile, noted the previous UK Government’s exchanges with BP were “more extensive than anyone had hitherto thought”. The First Minister was referring to a seven-page letter sent at the weekend to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, confirming BP had met the former Labour Government five times in October and November 2007 over fears that disputes about a prisoner transfer agreement could damage its oil exploration contracts with Libya.
However, Hague emphasised this was a “perfectly normal and legitimate practice for a British company”, and said there was no evidence to corroborate the allegation BP was involved in Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
In the autumn of 2007, Jack Straw, the former UK Justice Secretary, had at least two telephone calls from Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 agent and a BP consultant. It has been suggested the oil giant, which a few months earlier had signed the “deal in the desert” with Tripoli, worth almost £600 million, was concerned that any delay in the prisoner transfer agreement between Libya and the UK could damage its commercial interests. (...)
Salmond said: “Just as I would say it would be helpful for the US to publish all the correspondence, the present Prime Minister is right in saying he is going to publish all that correspondence as well. When all that is published, the position of the Scottish Government will be vindicated.
“We’ve acted throughout with total integrity.” (...)
Elsewhere, a leaked memo has shown that while the US Government did not want Megrahi released, it made clear that compassionate grounds were “far preferable” to his transfer to a Libyan jail.
This seems to fly in the face of the statement last week by Barack Obama that America had been “surprised, disappointed and angry” about the release.
Susman said: “We had a mutual understanding with the British Government that if he was tried and convicted he would serve his entire sentence in Scotland.
“The fact [MacAskill] made a decision on compassionate grounds to release him was something we were not in favour of.”