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BP admits 'lobbying UK over Libya prisoner transfer scheme but not Lockerbie bomber'
07-15-2010, 08:58 PM,
BP admits 'lobbying UK over Libya prisoner transfer scheme but not Lockerbie bomber'
Quote:BP said it pressed for a deal over the controversial prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) amid fears any delays to negotiations would damage its “commercial interests” and disrupt its £900 million offshore drilling operations in the region.

But it denied claims that it had been involved in negotiations concerning the release of Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber freed by Scottish authorities last year.

The admission came just hours after Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, pledged to investigate allegations of BP's involvement in his release ahead of its planned new drilling in Libya.

It followed a letter from four US senators who had accused the company of having a hand in the release of Megrahi, who was released last year by the Scottish government on "health grounds" and compassionate grounds.

Mrs Clinton’s intervention came after the American Democratic senators called for an investigation into BP’s interests in Libya, as they tried to connect the oil group with a deal to free the convicted terrorist.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the company admitted it had lobbied the British Government over the controversial prisoner deal but denied any involvement in Megrahi’s release.

“It is matter of public record that in late 2007 BP told the UK Government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya,” the company said in a statement.

“We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan Government of BP's exploration agreement.”

But a spokesman added: “The decision to release Mr al-Megrahi in August 2009 was taken by the Scottish Government.

“It’s not for BP to comment on the decision of the Scottish Government.

“BP was not involved in any discussions with the UK Government or the Scottish Government about the release of Mr al-Megrahi.”

Company sources later attempted to play down the statement, saying it was “old news”.

A spokesman for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, also denied there was a link between his release and the company.

There was “no link between the Scottish executive’s decision to release Megrahi” and BP, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters in London.

It was a fresh blow to BP, which is battling to save its reputation after the Gulf of Mexico oil slick while it also faced a series of attacks from US politicians.

Frank Lautenberg, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, led calls for an investigation into whether BP helped to secure the early release of al-Megrahi.

“It is shocking to even contemplate that BP is profiting from the release of a terrorist with the blood of 189 Americans on his hands,” Mr Lautenberg wrote in a letter to the Senate foreign relations committee.

His colleague Robert Menendez added: "If BP is found to have helped free this mass murderer that would further de-legitimise the Scottish court's decision to grant him compassionate release.”

Last year Jack Straw admitted to The Daily Telegraph that Libyan trade and oil were an "essential part'' of the Government's decision to include the bomber in the PTA.

The former Justice Secretary said he was unapologetic about including Abdelbaset al Megrahi in the agreement, citing a multi-million-pound oil deal signed by BP and Libya six weeks later.

The extra political pressure on BP came as it was forced to delay testing on a new cap aimed at completely sealing its leaking Gulf of Mexico well.

It said there were worries that the test could damage the wellbore.

Separately, the European Union's top energy official said he would look to impose a ban on new deepwater oil and gas drilling in Europe.
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