UK Politics

Cameron criticises al-Megrahi release before US visit

David Cameron and Barack Obama
Image caption Mr Cameron has said he and President Obama "get on well"

David Cameron has attacked the release of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, ahead of his first official visit to the US as PM.

Mr Cameron described the Scottish government decision to free Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds last year as "completely wrong".

The US Congress is investigating the background to the decision amid claims of lobbying by oil firm BP over it.

BP has denied this and ministers have said there is no evidence of any link.

The oil giant is under fire in the US following the fatal explosion at its Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, whose resultant leak has led to the worst environmental disaster in US history.

Mr Cameron is expected to discuss efforts to contain the leak as well as the Lockerbie case during his first visit to the White House as prime minister on Tuesday.

Mr Cameron, who met US President Barack Obama at the G8 and G20 summits last month, has described the US-UK relationship as "important and long-standing".

'Clear stance'

Asked about the decision in August to free Libyan al-Megrahi after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live, Mr Cameron stressed it had been a decision for the Scottish government alone.

However, he said he "deeply regrets" the pain the decision caused to the relatives of the 270 mainly US citizens, killed in the 1988 bombing.

"All I know is, as leader of the opposition, I could not have been more clear that I thought the decision to release al-Megrahi was completely and utterly wrong," he told BBC Breakfast.

Asked whether BP - which has lucrative oil contracts in Libya - had lobbied for al-Megrahi's release, he said: "I have no idea what BP did. I am not responsible for BP."

Foreign Secretary William Hague has written to his US counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stating that there was no evidence of BP involvement in the decision.

BP has acknowledged that it warned the previous Labour government of a possible "negative impact on UK commercial interests" of slow progress being made agreeing a separate prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

But it has insisted that it had no discussions with either the UK or Scottish government over the issue.

On Sunday, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski called for a full public inquiry into the decision to release al-Megrahi.

As well as the White House visit - where Afghanistan is likely to be among the other priority issues discussed by the two men - Mr Cameron will meet US Vice President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders.

He will conclude his two-day visit by meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and business leaders in New York.

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