20 Jul 2010

Cameron: Megrahi release ‘not a BP decision’

David Cameron has just told PBS radio in Washington that the Megrahi release was “not a BP decision” but “the decision of British ministers” (by which he means Scottish ministers).

He has revisited his initial decision to turn down a late request from four US senators to meet up and discuss the Lockerbie bomber’s release and BP’s influence on the Prisoner Transfer Agreeement.

His team worked out that the US senators had the capacity between them to become the story if they were snubbed, they still might even if they’re un-snubbed.

By the way, I understand that Megrahi still has to keep in touch with East Renfrewshire council under the terms of his release. This was originally thought to be a regular video conference but I believe what actually happens is that he files regular medical updates (monthly) from Libya .. and these are said to confirm that he remains afflicted with a terminal condition (the details are kept private).

Only just caught up with David Miliband’s interview in the Herald. He’s saying the SNP administration’s decision must’ve been wrong because Megrahi is still alive. But that throws you back to David Miliband’s advice to the SNP in 2008 when he was asked if the Megrahi release would, in his judgement, be in the national interest. He said it would.

In the interview, Mr Cameron insisted that he and the US President were on the same page on economic policy, but that is stretching things a bit.

President Obama is very worried about economies deflating too quickly and giving no growth, sucking everyone back down into recession … if he had a free hand you’d see a very different stimulus policy in the US even now, but he hasn’t got the political support to get it through.

It’s hard to imagine that the torture inquiry launched in London won’t come up in the talks. It’s basic premise is that a whole number of individuals’ claims of mistreatment by the US are accurate. Those basic claims are not being investigated. The investigation is into British complicity with mistreatment. The US has acknowledged mistreatment in some cases but I don’t think in all.

On BP, it seems there is a rich well of stuff to dig into about BP’s lobbying for a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya. They apparently never mentioned Megrahi but they didn’t have to.

Everyone knew what was going on and that a potential big oil find was at stake. Of course, the US and many other Western countries have done dirty deals behind closed doors to get their hands on natural resources, trade deals or much else … the problem comes when one of your doors swings open and it is linked to the biggest mass murder above British soil.

David Cameron will not want the BP/Libya story to dominate headlines on this trip even if he does feel on the front foot because he wasn’t in government when the prisoner was released to Libya.

But he would prefer another headline … expect the two leaders to focus on Afghanistan agreement and the world economy when they start their press conference at 7pm London time.

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