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BP Confirms It Lobbied for Libyan Prisoner Release, Denies Involvement in Lockerbie Case

Senators Investigate BP, Lockerbie Case

July 14: Senators from New York and New Jersey take part in a news conference to discuss asking the State Department to investigate whether oil giant BP played a role in winning release of the Lockerbie bomber.AP

Oil giant BP confirmed Thursday it lobbied the U.K. government to speed up the release of Libyan prisoners -- but denied it tried to intervene in the case of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al Megrahi.

The company, currently battling the catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, made the statement after U.S. senators accused BP of being part of a deal to free Megrahi early in return for lucrative oil exploration rights.

Megrahi was serving life for the deaths of 270 people -- including 189 Americans -- killed when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky above the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

Released on health grounds in August 2009, when doctors said he only had weeks to live, he is still alive and living in freedom and luxury in Libya, and could live far longer than previously estimated.

The Sunday Times reported this month that Karol Sikora -- who had estimated last year that al Megrahi had three months to live -- now says he could live another 10 years.

A statement from BP said: “It is matter of public record that in late 2007 BP told the U.K. Government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya.

“We were aware that this could have a negative impact on U.K. commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan Government of BP's exploration agreement.

“The decision to release Mr. al Megrahi in August 2009 was taken by the Scottish Government.

“It’s not for BP to comment on the decision of the Scottish Government. BP was not involved in any discussions with the U.K. Government or the Scottish Government about the release of Mr. al Megrahi.”

Sir Nigel Sheinwald, British Ambassador to the U.S., said in a statement that Megrahi was not released in an oil deal.

"Claims in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence used by the Scottish Executive supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government, are not true," the statement said.

At a news conference the senators -- Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey -- demanded BP suspend its oil drilling plans in Libya until it can be determined whether the oil giant played any role in al Megrahi's release in exchange for a contract.

Schumer said: “It is 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.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to investigate the claims BP had accepted “blood money” from the Libyan government.

"I have received the letter and we will obviously look into it," she said late Wednesday.

The senators wrote a letter last week to Nigel Sheinwald, British ambassador to the United States, urging the U.K. government to determine if "inappropriate considerations" led to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's release.

"There is clear reason to believe that this terrorist was released based on false information about his health," Schumer said in a written statement. "This is especially galling to those of us who believed he shouldn't have been released, even if it had been true that his death was imminent."