Lockerbie - oil deal the crux

2009-08-30 22:20
London - The British government allowed the Lockerbie bomber to be covered by a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya because that was in the "overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom" as a major oil deal was being negotiated, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

The Sunday Times, citing leaked correspondence between Justice Secretary Jack Straw and his Scottish counterpart Kenny MacAskill, said the decision was made as "wider negotiations" with the government of Libya continued.

On Sunday, Straw dismissed as "simply untrue" any suggestion that economic considerations had an effect on the decision to release Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

"The suggestion that at any stage there was some kind of backdoor deal done over (al-Megrahi's) transfer because of trade is simply untrue," Straw said in an interview with the BBC.

Al-Megrahi's request to serve out his life sentence in Libya was later denied by MacAskill, but he released the Libyan on compassionate grounds because the 57-year-old is terminally ill. Al-Megrahi returned to Libya earlier this month.

The Sunday Times reported that Straw had originally tried to keep al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the attack on Pan Am Flight 103, from being included in the agreement.

But five months later, the newspaper said, as a multibillion-pound deal between oil company BP and Libya stalled, Straw wrote to MacAskill to say that there would be no exceptions.


In a statement released on Sunday, Straw said it had always been made clear during negotiations with the Libyans that Scotland would have a right to veto any application under a prisoner transfer agreement - including that of al-Megrahi.

According to the Economist magazine, Britain has significant economic interests in Libya. Last year, British imports topped £1bn, and this year both imports and exports have been rising steadily.

The decision to release al-Megrahi sparked outrage in the United States, where most of the 270 people killed in the December 1988 attack lived.

Both President Barack Obama and FBI director Robert Mueller criticised the move, and scenes of jubilation in Libya at al-Megrahi's arrival were condemned on both sides of the Atlantic.


Read more on:    libya  |  scotland  |  terrorism

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