A group of US senators called on BP to freeze projects in Libya until claims that the British firm pushed for the release of the Lockerbie bomber can be investigated.
On Tuesday, the four senators called for an inquiry into allegations that BP lobbied the British government to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi in order to protect a lucrative oil deal with Libya.
Megrahi was freed by a Scottish court last year on health grounds in a decision that infuriated US lawmakers and the relatives of those killed in the 1998 bombing.
“If BP is found to have helped free this mass murderer, that would further de-legitimize the Scottish court’s decision to grant him compassionate release,” Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said Wednesday.
BP is already facing a wave of public anger in the United States for failing to contain a giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has become the biggest environmental disaster in US history.
On Tuesday, Menendez and his colleagues Senators Frank Lautenberg, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call for an inquiry into BP’s role in Megrahi’s release.
On Wednesday, Clinton told reporters that she had received the letter and that the State Department would examine it.
Her spokesman Philip Crowley added however that there were “some practical questions of exactly what they would be asking us to do.”
Crowley said there remains questions over the State Department’s “ability to inquire as to a conversation alleged to have taken place between a private company, a government, and another devolved government.”
The letter cited a September 2009 report in Britain’s Times newspaper — denied by BP — that claimed the oil giant lobbied for Megrahi’s release to safeguard a 2007 oil exploration deal valued at 900 million dollars.
“Until BP’s deal with Libya is properly investigated, this project off the coast of Libya should not break ground,” Schumer said Wednesday.
“If BP is truly dealing in good faith and has nothing to hide, it should cooperate with such an investigation,” he added.
“It almost too disgusting to fathom that BP had a possible role in securing the release of the Lockerbie terrorist in return for an oil drilling deal.”