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Political spillover

July 21, 2010

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spent much of their meeting in Washington discussing BP, as a major oil spill and allegations of political meddling harry the British oil giant.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama.
Obama described the US-UK relationship as 'truly special'Image: AP

British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed US calls for an inquiry into the release of the Lockerbie bomber in a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington.

"I don't need an inquiry to tell me it was a bad decision. It was a bad decision," Cameron said in a joint press conference.

Cameron said his top civil servants would review the details of last year's release of terminally ill Libyan Abdel Baset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, and ascertain whether more information should be made public.

BP's admission that it had lobbied over a prisoner transfer deal with Libya in 2007 to improve trade relations with the country has caused transatlantic tensions, especially after the massive underwater oil spill at a BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico. However, BP says it played no role in Megrahi's release.

"That wasn't a decision taken by BP; it was a decision taken by the Scottish government," Cameron said, alluding to the Scottish National Party's regional government in Scotland, which has full authority over its penal system.

Obama stopped short of demanding an official British inquiry into the decision, despite appeals from four US senators.

"We've got a British prime minister who shares our anger over the decision," Obama said.

Megrahi was the only person convicted for the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988 that killed 270 people, including 189 US citizens.

Plans for Afghanistan

World leaders gathered in Kabul for a major conference on Afghanistan.
The Washington meeting followed a Kabul conferenceImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Although the leaders were forced to spend much of their time discussing British oil giant BP, they also used their informal press conference - in which they called each other "Barack" and "David" - to address the ongoing military mission in Afghanistan.

The US and Britain are the two largest troop contributors to the NATO-led mission in the country, and are long-standing military allies.

"We have the right strategy," Obama said, after the leaders paid joint tribute to the fallen troops in the country. "We're going to break the Taliban's momentum. We're going to build Afghan capacity, so Afghans can take responsibility for their future."

Both the US and Britain are keen to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and are trying to prepare local security forces to take charge of the country. President Hamid Karzai said in a global Afghanistan conference Tuesday that his security forces would be in a position to take control by 2014, a claim that has met with some skepticism.

The two leaders also put their support behind increased sanctions against the Iranian government, but said it was not too late for a peaceful solution with Tehran. New EU sanctions focusing on trade, banking, insurance, shipping, air cargo and sectors of the gas and oil industry are set to be implemented in the coming days.

"Along with our P5+1 partners," Obama said, referring to the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany, "we remain committed to a diplomatic solution. But the Iranian government must understand that the path of defiance will only bring more pressure and more isolation."

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Holly Fox

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