WASHINGTON — British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday turned aside U.S. calls for an investigation into the release of the Lockerbie bomber by Scotland and said there was no indication that oil giant BP had swayed the controversial decision.
Both Cameron and President Barack Obama, who met with him at the White House, condemned the release of the Libyan bomber.
Still, Cameron said the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison was not the doing of the British government nor, apparently, the result of any lobbying by BP to win oil concessions from Libya. Rather it was a decision by the government of Scotland on compassionate grounds, he said.
“It was the biggest mass murder in British history, and there was no business letting him out of prison,” Cameron said.
Said Obama: “I think all of us here in the United States were surprised, disappointed and angry.”
Cameron said at a joint White House news conference with Obama that any role that BP may have played in the Lockerbie release “is a matter for BP to answer.” But he went on to say there was no evidence that Scotland’s decision was swayed by BP.
Cameron said he and Obama were in “violent agreement” that the release was a mistake.
However, they did disagree slightly over the issue of an investigation. Several U.S. senators have proposed an investigation, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called on both British and Scottish officials to review the situation.
Obama said he welcomed such a probe and that it was important that all facts be released to the public. Cameron said he, too, agreed that all the facts should released. But, he added, “I don’t think there’s any great mystery here. … I don’t need an inquiry to tell me it was a bad decision. It was a bad decision.”
Cameron also said he understood American anger over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
He said the spill that began April 20 with an explosion aboard a BP-leased oil rig that claimed 11 lives was “a catastrophe” for the environment, the fishing industry and for tourism in the region.
Cameron said he agreed with Obama that “it is BP’s role to cap the leak, clean up the mess and pay the appropriate compensation.” He said that the recent temporary capping of the well by BP was “a step in the right direction.”
At the same time, Cameron said that BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, “is an important company to both” the United States and Britain, noting it was a company that employs thousands of workers on both sides of the Atlantic.