PM demands review of Lockerbie bomber paperwork

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The Independent Online

David Cameron has asked the UK's top civil servant to review the Government's documentation on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, it was disclosed tonight.

The Prime Minister has instructed Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell to ensure that all material that "should be made public has been made public".

Downing Street signalled the move amid efforts to defuse renewed anger in the US over the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi last year.

Mr Cameron, on his first visit to the United States as premier, is due to meet a group of senators later to discuss claims that BP lobbied for Megrahi to be freed as part of efforts to secure an oil deal with Libya.

Mr Cameron told ABC News in an interview: "I am asking the Cabinet Secretary in the UK to go back over the paperwork and see if there is anything else that should be released and there is the clearest possible pressure out there of what decision was taken and why."

Earlier, the PM made his view of the release clear by stating that Megrahi "should have died in jail" - but denied that the beleaguered oil giant had been in any way involved.

With the political firestorm over BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico threatening to dominate his visit, the Prime Minister again sought to distance himself from the decision last year of the Scottish Government to allow al-Megrahi to return to Libya.

"I will say to them (the senators) that I agree that the decision to release al-Megrahi was wrong. I said it was wrong at the time," he told National Public Radio in Washington.

"It was the Scottish Government that took that decision. They took it after proper process and what they saw as the right, compassionate reasons. I just happen to think it was profoundly misguided.

"He was convicted of the biggest mass murder and in my view he should have died in jail. I said that very, very clearly at the time; that is my view today.

"Of course BP has got to do everything necessary to cap the oil well, to clean up the spill, to pay compensation. I have met with BP and I know they want to do that and will do that.

"But let's be clear about who released al-Megrahi ... it was a Government decision in the UK. It was the wrong decision. It was not the decision of BP - it was the decision of Scottish ministers."

No 10 confirmed this morning that Mr Cameron had agreed to meet a group of US senators who are pressing for a new investigation into the case.

Initially officials said that Mr Cameron was unable to find time for talks with the senators in his "very full schedule" and had instead offered them a meeting with the British ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband also waded into the row, claiming the fact that Megrahi was still alive, despite being given less than three months to live last August, meant it had been "wrong" to free him.

But Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who authorised the release, hit back, saying he had followed the rules.

"I followed the rules and laws set down in Scottish statute, and within the prison service rules, and I believe I also adhered to the values and beliefs that we have in Scotland."

He repeated his offer to assist any inquiry held into the circumstance surrounding the atrocity.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said earlier this week that the US Senate should call Mr Blair to give evidence and "get the truth" about the refused prisoner transfer agreement.