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Homeland Security

UK did 'all it could to secure release of Lockerbie bomber'

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Feb 7, IRNA -- Britain’s previous Labour government did 'all it could' to help Libya secure the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, according to the country’s top civil servant.

In a report Monday, cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell concluded that a policy was progressively developed to facilitate the Libyans in their appeal to the Scottish government to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009.

But O’Donnell also said that he had not seen any evidence that the UK government 'pressured or lobbied' the devolved government in Scotland, where the Libyan was jailed. Paperwork showed the UK was clear the decision was a matter for the Scottish government alone.

The report was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron in July after the UK was locked in a stand-off over a US Senate request for former justice secretary Jack Straw and Scottish minister Kenny MacAskill to testify in an investigation over the release.

In his only meeting with the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, a month before Megrahi return to Tripoli in August 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown was said to have made clear that he could not interfere.

'Nonetheless, once Mr Megrahi had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in September 2008, HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) policy was based upon an assessment that UK interests would be damaged if Mr Megrahi were to die in a UK jail,' O'Donnell said.

He said the government had been 'primarily motivated by a desire to build on previous success in normalising relations with Libya and to safeguard the substantial gains made in recent years, and specifically to avoid harm to UK nationals, to British commercial interests and to co-operation on security issues'.

The report also confirmed that oil giant BP had lobbied the UK government, warning ministers that failure to reach a prisoner transfer agreement, which enabled Megrahi's return, could have an impact on British commercial interests.

But again it found no evidence that BP tried to pressurise the Scottish government to release Megrahi under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya signed by former prime minister Tony Blair in 2007.

Last yaer, Straw expressed unease about attending a Senate committee hearing, saying that it would be 'highly unusual' to expect a British MP to answer in Washington for decisions made in London, while MacAskill flatly turned down the request.

There were also reports that Tony Blair had been asked to appear before the Senate foreign relations committee, but this was denied by his spokesman.

The row centres over the release on compassionate grounds of the former Libyan agent, who is the only person convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing over Scotland in which all 279 passengers and crew were killed, including 189 Americans.

The release has been linked with BP signing a $20 billion oil contract with Libya and a prisoner exchange deal agreed by Blair but this has been denied by Scotland’s devolved government.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 30229833

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