Britain refuses US request for officials to meet Senate staffer on Lockerbie investigation

LONDON (AP) — The British government said Monday it has refused a request to have a U.S. Senate staffer interview officials involved in the release of the man convicted of blowing up a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is sending a staffer to Britain as part of his investigation into the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 attack, which killed all 259 people aboard the Pan Am plane — most of them American — and 11 on the ground.

The Foreign Office said it had declined a request for officials to meet the U.S. Senate staffer, because the Civil Service Code prevents serving staff from discussing the policies of previous governments and because of concerns over international jurisdiction.

A spokeswoman said that, despite the refusal, the British government was "committed to being constructive." Speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy, she said Foreign Secretary William Hague had written to the committee setting out the British government's position.

The U.S. Embassy in London confirmed that the staffer would visit Britain this week. It did not provide further details.

Al-Megrahi was freed from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds in August 2009. Doctors advising the Scottish government gave him three months to live, but he is still alive.

Scottish and British officials have already turned down requests to appear at Senate committee hearings in Washington. Tony Hayward, the outgoing chief executive of BP PLC, also declined to attend.

Some U.S. legislators have expressed concerns that oil giant BP — seeking better access to Libyan oil fields — may have pressured officials to approve al-Megrahi's release, a claim strongly disputed by ministers in Scotland and London.