BP Admits It Lobbied British for Libyan Prisoner Transfer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Salvage experts of Britain’s Royal Air Force work on the nose and cockpit section of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1988 a week after the jumbo jet crashed on the town killing all 259 aboard and 11 persons on the ground.

    While seeking a billion dollar oil exploration deal with Libya, BP executives admitted Thursday the company did lobby the British government to enter into a prisoner transfer agreement with the African nation.

    "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," BP 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 the petroleum giant claims it never specifically asked Britain to set free Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi

    Al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing the transatlantic flight from London Heathrow  en route to New York's JFK airport in 1998.  The remains of the exploded jetliner fell on Lockerbie, Soctland, and the attack killed all 259 people on board and another 11 people on the ground.

    "BP was not involved in any discussion with the U.K. government or the Scottish government about the release of al-Megrahi," a BP company spokesman said.

    He was released on "compassionate" grounds when Scottish authorities said his "terminal" prostate cancer gave the terrorist just three months to live. 

    But a year later Megrahi is free in Libya and the doctor who gave the diagnosis admits the bomber could live 10 or 20 more years -- and that he had been paid by the Libyan government.

    Numerous U.S. senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) now suspect Megrahi's release was connected to BP's goal of securing an oil deal with Libya.

    "This is ugly," said Bert Ammerman, the former head of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 group.  "It is immoral. It is unethical. It is illegal.  And there's no question there is a connection between the BP oil agreement with Libya and the release of al Megrahi."

    Ammerman added he wants an investigation into what the Obama administration knew about this alleged deal before it happened.

    Libyan officials have said any oil deal would be connected to a completed prisoner transfer agreement.   Al Megrahi was released last year and was greeted by flag waiving crowds when he arrived home.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she was reviewing the request by the Senators to investigate the BP oil deal with Libya and any alleged connection to the release of the Flight 103 bomber.

    Sue Cohen lost her daughter, Theo, in the bombing over Scotland. And she said she's "not surprised" by the revelations about BP's alleged involvement in negotiations over the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Al-Megrahi.

    Cohen said she has heard for years that BP had a strong interest in the release, because it would make Libya more receptive to foreign business investment.

    "There's no question in my mind that BP was involved. The British government was very much influenced by the oil companies, and it's no coincidence that soon after the negotiations BP signed this enormously good deal."

    "This was really a deal for business interests. Western governments seem to be run by one thing now -- the great God money," she said.

    Meanwhile, the British doctor who examined al-Megrahi and gave him just three months to live is now disputing reports that he now believes the freed terrorist could live 10 years or more.  In his first television interview, Dr. Karol Sikora said its possible Abdel Bassett Al Megrahi could live 10 more years, but he gives those chances as less than 1 percent.
     
    Dr. Sikora said he was "misquoted completely" in a newspaper about his 10 year prognosis.  He said he gave a 50 percent chance al Megrahi would die within three months and that he had called the 10 year survival possibility "highly unlikely."
     
    Megrahi was released on "compassionate grounds" after British doctors predicted he would die from cancer within three months. Sikora said he suspects the bomber has lived much longer because he is now out of prison.  "When you're on your own with relatives and you go back to a much more caring environment, you live longer."
     
    Sikora denies he was under any pressure to come to the three month conclusion.  And he says the decision to set him free was the government's to make, not his.