Scotland

US Senate Lockerbie bomber inquiry 'may visit UK'

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Media captionSenator Robert Menendez: "We will be sending individuals to Great Britain"

The US senator who will chair a rescheduled congressional inquiry into the Lockerbie bomber release has said he may send investigators to Britain.

In an interview for the BBC's Newsnight programme, Senator Robert Menendez said he wanted to take up offers from some witnesses to be questioned in the UK.

Scots Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and former UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw refused to testify in the US.

BP's outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward also declined to appear.

Mr Menendez has rescheduled the hearing for September and issued fresh invitations to all potential witnesses.

Oil questions

The senator told Newsnight: "In addition to making a request for them to come to the hearings, we will be sending individuals... to Great Britain and Scotland to interview the individuals and to ask questions and get a thorough understanding of how they came to their decisions."

Also speaking on the programme, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he was happy to offer a visiting US senator "the courtesy of a meeting".

But he said there was "no way on Earth" Scottish ministers would formally give evidence to a committee hearing of a foreign legislature, even if it was held in the UK.

"It's a point of principle that you're not responsible to the committee of another parliament," he said.

"I don't think there is a recorded case in history of a serving American secretary going to another jurisdiction to give evidence to a committee of another parliament. That applies to the Chilcot Committee, it applies to coroners' inquests in England, it applies to extraordinary rendition and all the other controversies the US has been involved in.

"You shouldn't ask other people to do things that your own government would never dream of," he said.

The proposed Senate hearing focuses on whether BP oil deals influenced the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Megrahi is the only man to have been convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on 21 December 1988.

The flight, from London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie in south west Scotland killing all 259 people on board, along with 11 people on the ground.

Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds having been told he had three months to live but is still alive almost a year later.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill rejected moving Megrahi as part of a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA).

It has been alleged BP pressed for an agreement in order to help secure an offshore deal with Libya.

BP has confirmed it did press for a PTA because it was aware that a delay might have "negative consequences" for UK commercial interests.

However, it has said it did not express a view about the specific form of the agreement which was a matter for the UK and Libyan governments.

At the time Megrahi was the only Libyan prisoner in the UK.

The UK government said the release was a matter for the Scottish government and Scottish ministers have said they had had no representations from BP on the matter.

The US Senate foreign relations committee had wanted to hold an inquiry on Capitol Hill this week but postponed it until September as none of the key witnesses it wanted to call agreed to attend.

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