updated 9/13/2010 9:13:43 AM ET 2010-09-13T13:13:43

The British government said Monday it has refused a request from a U.S. Senate committee to interview officials involved in the release of the man convicted of blowing up a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is sending officials to Britain as part of its investigation into the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 attack, which killed all 259 people aboard the Pan Am plane — most of them American — and 11 on the ground.

The Foreign Office said it had declined a request for officials to meet a team of U.S. Senate staffers, because the Civil Service Code prevents serving staff from discussing the policies of previous governments and because of concerns over international jurisdiction.

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A spokeswoman said that despite the refusal, the British government was "committed to being constructive." Speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy, she said Foreign Secretary William Hague had written to the committee setting out the British government's position.

Megrahi was freed from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds in August 2009. Doctors advising the Scottish government gave him three months to live, but he is still alive.

Scottish and British officials have also declined requests to appear at Senate committee hearings in Washington. Tony Hayward, the outgoing chief executive of BP PLC, also declined to attend.

Some U.S. legislators have expressed concerns that oil giant BP — seeking better access to Libyan oil fields — may have pressured officials to approve al-Megrahi's release, a claim strongly disputed by ministers in Scotland and London.

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Video: Did BP play role in release of Lockerbie bomber?

  1. Closed captioning of: Did BP play role in release of Lockerbie bomber?

    >> a role in last year's release of the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of pan am flight 103 . nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondents andrea mitchell is in washington with the details on that. andrea, we have been in shock since this story broke and we realize what was happening here. it seems to me that there was a dirty deal in the making.

    >> well, i saw you discussing this with richard haas yesterday. new questions each today about this about just whether bp pressured the british government to release the lockerer bee bomber in exchange for a $900 million oil deal with libya .

    >> reporter: the outrage over the hero's welcome last year in libya for the only man convected of the pan am 103 bombing, al megrahi a bombing that killed 273 people in 1988 including 189 americans many were students at syracuse university . megrahi was let free because libyan doctors said he had only three months to live, advanced prostate cancer . a year later he is still alive and thriving. and bp is being accused of pressuring the british government for his release. in exchange for an oil deal with libya . u.s. lawmakers are outraged.

    >> if bp is found to have gained access to libyan oil reserves by using a mass murderer as a bargaining chip, then make no mistake, any money it makes off of that oil is blood money , pure and simple.

    >> reporter: secretary of state hillary clinton was asked about the tradeoff.

    >> seriously, i received the letter.

    >> reporter: she said she would look into it but her spokesman suggested there is not much the u.s. can do.

    >> there are practical questions of exactly what they would be asking us to do and what would be our ability to -- to inquire as to, you know, any conversation that alleged to have taken place between a private company , a government, and another divulged government.

    >> reporter: bp did acknowledge it talked to the british government in 2007 about the prisoner transfer. let me get the words straight. this is what they told us yesterday about the slow progress, their team of the prisoner trvers fer agreement and a delay could have, quote, a negative impact on british commercial interests including its oil explorations. to me that raises more questions than it answers. a lot of yes questions now being raised specifically because we all knew that they were releasing this man because of compassionate interests and libyan doctors said he was dying of advanced prostate cancer . now, a lot of questions about whether that medical diagnosis was completely fraudulent.

    >> first of all, he is still alive and no contingency to send him back because he was supposed to be dead.

    >> exactly.

    >> jon meacham , your thoughts.

    >> if you weren't for solar and wind before, this would be the moment.

    >> you're right, you're right.

    >> this is dirty business . we celt with sudan in the 1990s they had a civil war that killed 2 million people because we wanted a pipeline to get oil out of sudan. seems like the dirtiest dealers on the global stage are run by petro.

    >> some people attack the idea we're addicted to foreign oil and think obama has overstated that. this is clearly an addiction with all of the negative implications that come with it.

    >> jim kaimer, a terrorist that kills american college students released. most likely because libya is doing a deal with british petroleum .

    >> i think when this happened, i think a lot of americans said this was outrageous but we don't figure out why it was happening. this to me was -- this is like you got to be kidding me moment. and i think bp is a world class bad actor and the worst record of any company in the industry and it just seems like it's a political animal that is not that good that is running wild . investigate the heck out of it, as far as i'm concerned.

    >> andrea mitchell , i suspect these investigations will grow on the hill on both sides of the hill, right?

    >> well, schumer and gillibrand making a big deal out of this, the new york and new jersey senators. the kir syracuse university , all of the people that were killed in that flight. the counterargument that they were making yesterday was the bush administration and the britts felt they should come clean on nukes and chemical weapons and taken off the terror list but that doesn't mean the other counterargument would mean they should get away with murder of more than 200 people. 270 people, guys.

    >> unbelievable.

    >> it's really sick.

    >> that bp statement is unbelievable. it is one of the most lawyered press release communication press release and it will insight people.

    >> andrea mitchell , great to see you. we will be watching you at 1:00 eastern time


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