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Senator: BP 'stonewalling' Lockerbie inquiry

BP and British officials have "stonewalled" attempts by the U.S. Senate to examine whether the oil giant influenced the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said on Tuesday.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has postponed Thursday's hearing on the release of the man convicted for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, because of what a senator says is "stonewalling" by BP, British and Scottish officials who declined to testify.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who was to chair the hearing, said Tuesday that "no witness of consequence has the courage" to step up and clear the air.

The committee is looking into whether British-based oil company BP had sought Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's release to help get a $900 million exploration agreement with Libya off the ground.

BP acknowledged that it had urged the British government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, but stressed it didn't specify his case.

BP CEO Tony Hayward and others were no-shows at the hearing. Menendez said that BP, a company on "thin ice," should cooperate.

U.S. anger over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has renewed interest in the details of the release last year by Scottish authorities of Libyan intelligence officer al-Megrahi.

Most of the 270 people killed in the bombing were Americans.

BP has offered to send another representative to testify at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be chaired by Menendez, an aide to the senator told Reuters, without giving the BP official's name.

But in a statement issued by his office, Menendez said he would keep pushing for Hayward, who will step down as CEO in October, to appear.