[QODLink]
Americas
US-UK rift over Lockerbie release
Scottish minister refuses to appear before US senate committee over bomber's release.
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2010 12:50 GMT
Abdelbasset al-Megrahi's release last August
sparked outrage in the US [AFP] 

The Scottish minister who released the Lockerbie bomber has refused to appear before a US senate committee to explain his decision, deepening a transatlantic rift between the US and Britain over the case.

US senators have issued formal requests for two British ministers to appear at a hearing in Washington to examine the decision making process leading up to Abdelbasset al-Megrahi's release in August last year.

But the Scottish government said on Thursday that Kenny Macaskill, the minister who made the decision, would not appear before the hearing because "full and relevant information" on the case had already been provided.

Jack Straw, the former British foreign secretary, has also been asked to attend the hearing to be quizzed over his role in agreeing to a prison transfer agreement with Libya, where al-Megrahi is from.

'Highly unusual'

The requests have prompted deep unease in Britain, where the prospect of  government ministers answering to legislators from a foreign power is being viewed with concern.

Straw has not ruled out attending the hearing, but has said he will undertake consultations before replying as it would be "highly unusual" for a former minister to appear before such a committee.

He said there were "important issues of principle here which could affect UK governments of any party and which need carefully to be considered before I come to a final view".

Al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds last August after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was believed at the time to have three months to live, but is still alive and living in Libya.

He was serving a life sentence for the murders of 270 people killed when a US airliner exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Influence investigated

US senators are investigating whether the terms of al-Megrahi's release could have been influenced by a multimillion dollar oil deal signed between British energy company BP and the Libyan government.

Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, has also been asked to attend the hearing to explain BPs role in lobbying for the bomber's release. The embattled boss of the energy giant is already feeling the ire of US politicians over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and it is unclear whether he will attend.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, attempted earlier this week to defuse growing tensions between the two countries over the release, saying that the decision had been taken by the Scottish government rather than Westminster and was "wrong".

Barack Obama, the US president, said on Tuesday that Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angered" by the release.

Source:
Al Jazeera English
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps will be released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.