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Africa

Tripoli denies oil deal link to Lockerbie bomber release

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-02

Libya has dismissed speculation that the release by Scotland of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi had anything to do with energy deals between the oil rich nation and the United Kingdom.

AFP - Britain will publish all "relevant" correspondence with Scotland on the Lockerbie bomber, an official said Monday, amid suggestions oil deals with Libya played a role in his release.
  
London will publish Tuesday its communication with Scottish ministers over Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, whose release from prison earlier this month sparked outrage in the United States, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
  
"We will release all relevant documents with Scottish ministers," the spokeswoman told AFP, declining to give details.
  
The correspondence is expected to reinforce the British government's stance that no deals were done over Megrahi's release.
  
It consists of mainly letters from the Ministry of Justice, some of which have already been leaked, relating to Britain's prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, the BBC said, citing sources.
  
Hours earlier, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said his government would also release documents Tuesday ahead of an expected fiery debate in the Scottish parliament on Wednesday on the issue.
  
"We have absolutely nothing we want to keep back," Salmond said.
  
Salmond again denied that the decision by his justice secretary was linked to commercial deals or other reasons, saying it was based purely on compassionate grounds as Megrahi has terminal prostate cancer.
  
Britain on Saturday also denied any link between trade with Libya and Megrahi's release after a report suggested London was swayed by an oil deal into making him eligible for a prison transfer home.
  
London insists the decision to release Megrahi was made solely by the semi-autonomous Scottish authorities.
  
Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison after serving just eight years for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people.
  
The decision and the hero's homecoming Megrahi received in Tripoli sparked anger from the US administration as well as many US relatives of the victims.
  
The White House again said Monday that Scotland made "the wrong decision" by releasing the convicted bomber, but declined to comment on the charges that British oil interests played a role.
  
The Sunday Times said the British government decided two years ago that it was "in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom" to ensure Megrahi could at some point be sent back to Libya.
  
According to letters obtained by the newspaper, Justice Secretary Jack Straw dropped an attempt in 2007 to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya because of "wider negotiations" with Tripoli.
  
His decision came after discussions between Libya and BP over a massive oil exploration deal became bogged down, the paper said. The deal was ratified by Libya soon afterwards.
  
In response to the report, Straw acknowledged that the prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) was part of efforts to bring Libya back into the international fold after it abandoned its nuclear weapons programme.
  
"What is totally untrue is that any part of these negotiations with the Libyans was that at some stage Mr Megrahi would be released," Straw said.
  
He added: "All this, however, is academic as Mr Megrahi was not released under the PTA treaty but quite separately by the Scottish Executive on compassionate grounds."
  

Date created : 2009-09-01

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