US tries to save face as Lockerbie Senate hearing postponed

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A US Senate hearing into secret Libyan oil deals and the release of the Lockerbie Bomber has been postponed after key witnesses declined an invite to attend.

The hearing’s postponement follows a week that saw it descend into chaos and farce as it first ignored long standing international protocols by requesting serving ministers of a foreign nation to attend then refused to invite the man at the centre of the ‘deal in the desert’, Tony Blair.


A US Senate hearing into secret Libyan oil deals and the release of the Lockerbie Bomber has been postponed after key witnesses declined an invite to attend.

The hearing’s postponement follows a week that saw it descend into chaos and farce as it first ignored long standing international protocols by requesting serving ministers of a foreign nation to attend then refused to invite the man at the centre of the ‘deal in the desert’, Tony Blair.

New Jersey senator Robert Menendez, who was due to chair the hearing, has blamed the postponement on what he called “stonewalling” by former Labour Minister Jack Straw and Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the Lockerbie bombing said: “Kenny MacAskill made himself pretty clear that he used compassionate release in line with Scots law and explained to the Senators that he had nothing further to add.

“I suppose it is quite embarrassing for the Senate if they have no one to testify.”

Critics of the hearing questioned its motives after it announced last week that it did not intend to take testimony from the man at the centre of the BP-Libyan oil deals, Tony Blair.  The former UK PM, whose government had been lobbied by BP, secretly met with Libyan leader Col Gadaffi in the Libyan desert in 2007.  BP subsequently signed an oil deal that same year and a prisoner transfer agreement involving Mr Al Megrahi was drafted.

The Senate hearing was set up following demands by four US senators for an investigation after they were duped by media reports linking the Megrahi release to the BP oil deal and suggesting that the medical evidence had been paid for by the Libyan government.  These reports originated in the UK media and were denounced by British ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald as “untrue” in a letter sent to the four.

It also emerged that the US ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman, agreed that there was “no evidence” to support suggestions that the compassionate release of Al-Megrahi was as a result of lobbying by oil giant BP.

The furore has also witnessed hypocrisy and utter confusion from the SNP’s political opponents.

New UK PM David Cameron openly attacked the Scottish government at a White House press conference and defended BP.  He was joined by Labour leadership favourite David Miliband who performed a dramatic ‘U’ turn and denounced the release; Miliband had previously stated he did not want Megrahi to die in a Scottish prison.

Today Labour’s Margaret Curran has bizarrely accused Kenny MacAskill of “grandstanding” on the Lockerbie issue.  However, last week Labour MSP Richard Baker had attacked Mr MacAskill’s decision not to go to the US.

Mr Baker also endorsed the prisoner transfer deal hatched by Tony Blair and ratified by Jack Straw.  The Labour MSP suggested that Mr Straw was right not attend the US hearing but that Kenny MacAskill was wrong not to attend.

It is reported that the hearing is to be rescheduled for a later date.

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