Obama Wants Full Story on Lockerbie Bomber's Release

CBS

President Obama said today that the U.S. government welcomes "any additional information that will give us insights" into why convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was released by the Scottish government and returned to his Libyan homeland.

The Obama administration and members of Congress have pushed the Scottish and British governments to probe what role oil company BP had in lobbying for al-Megrahi's release. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also holding a hearing into the matter.

Mr. Obama was speaking after a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who opposes a new inquiry on the grounds that we "don't think we need an extra inquiry to tell us what happened." Like the president, Cameron said he believes that the Scottish government's decision to release al-Megrahi was a mistake - but a mistake that was the Scottish government's to make.

While BP should be blamed for the oil leak in the Gulf, Cameron said, "I think it's important to separate that from the decision to release al-Megrahi."

The prime minister said what role BP played in the release of the convicted bomber is a matter for the company to address. BP and the Scottish government have denied that the company helped secure the release of the bomber. The issue of BP's possible involvement was rekindled in the wake of the catestrophic oil leak in the Gulf.

al-Megrahi had served eight years for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, which killed 259 people, most of them Americans.

In ordering his release, the Scottish government cited the convicted Libyan bomber's prostate cancer, which doctors said was terminal and left him with just months to live. Nearly a year after his release, however, al-Megrahi, who returned to Libya to a hero's welcome, remains alive.

BP acknowledges pushing the British government to agree to a prisoner transfer with Libya, though it says it did not specifically discuss al-Megrahi, who was released two years after BP signed a $900 million exploration agreement with the Libya Investment Corp.

"The Scottish government had no contact from BP in relation to Mr. al-Megrahi," the Scottish government said last Thursday. "The issues being raised in the United States at present regarding BP refer to the Prisoner Transfer Agreement negotiated by the governments of the U.K. and Libya, and therefore have nothing to do with the decision on compassionate release, which is a totally different process, based on entirely different criteria."

Cameron said he hasn't seen any information that the Scottish government was "in any way swayed by BP."

Mr. Obama said that people should "have all the facts, they should be laid out there" about BP's role. But he added that it wouldn't change the fundamental issue.

"With all the facts out we're going to be back to where we are now, which was it was a decision that should not have been made," he said.

Mr. Obama said Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angry" about the release of al-Megrahi last summer.

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