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PM Cameron Expected To Discuss BP With Obama

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July 19, 2010

(KATAKAMI / SKY NEWS)  David Cameron is travelling to Washington later for his first official visit to the United States since becoming Prime Minister.

Afghanistan is likely to be the chief topic of discussion when he meets President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow.

He is also expected to confront criticism of BP over both the Gulf of Mexico spill and claims by US politicians it lobbied for the release of the Lockerbie bomber to secure a deal.

Mr Obama was outspoken in his attacks on BP and the need for them to pay for the devastation caused.

Mr Cameron has been criticised for failing to stand up for the British firm.

After talks with BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg last week, Mr Cameron said he would stress the importance of the firm’s success to both country’s economies.

I couldn’t have been more clear that I thought the decision to release Al Megrahi was completely and utterly wrong.

David Cameron

As well as the White House meeting, Mr Cameron is scheduled for talks with vice president Joe Biden and other senior figures from Congress – where he is likely to face a second front of questions involving BP.

The influential senate foreign relations committee called a hearing for later this month to discuss last year’s transfer of Abdelbaset al Megrahi from a Scottish jail back to Libya.

The only man convicted of involvement in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people in 1988, Megrahi was freed by the Scottish Executive on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

But his continued survival, despite originally being given only three months to live, has revived anger in the US over the decision and calls by a group of Democrat senators for an investigation into BP’s alleged role.

Freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi speaks to a   doctor

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi

Asked on BBC Breakfast whether the firm had lobbied for Megrahi’s release, Mr Cameron said: “I have no idea what BP did, I am not responsible for BP.”

The PM added: “All I know is as leader of opposition I couldn’t have been more clear that I thought the decision to release Al Megrahi was completely and utterly wrong.”

As part of concerted efforts to calm the row ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary Willian Hague wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last night insisting there was no evidence of BP involvement.

The firm acknowledges warning the British Government of a potential “negative impact on UK commercial interests” of slow progress being made concluding a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

But it insists it had no discussions with London or Edinburgh over Megrahi’s release.

Mr Cameron will conclude the two-day visit in New York with talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and a major trade push in meetings with senior business figures.

The Prime Minister and Mr Obama last met at the G8 and G20 summits in Canada last month, and Downing Street said Mr Cameron was keen to build on “excellent discussions” they enjoyed there. (*)

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