BP to Start Drilling Off Libya as U.S. Senators Seek Lockerbie Link Probe

BP Plc should stop a planned drilling campaign in Libya while links between the oil producer and the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi are investigated, a group of U.S. Senators said.

The London-based company has a rig in place to start a well in the Gulf of Sirt after completing a seismic survey last year. BP also plans to drill onshore in the Ghadames basin by the end of the year, Robert Wine, a spokesman for BP, said today.

BP, under political pressure to stop and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, signed an exploration agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corp. in May 2007 during a visit by then- U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. U.S. senators, who yesterday asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to examine whether BP helped secure al-Megrahi’s freedom from a Scottish jail to facilitate the deal, held a press conference today demanding BP stop drilling in Libya.

“Evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems to suggest that BP would put profit ahead of people,” Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wrote in the letter to Clinton yesterday. “The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?”

Menendez, Schumer and Lautenberg held a press conference in Washington this morning “to call for BP to suspend its oil drilling plans in Libya,” Mike Morey, a spokesman for Schumer, wrote in an e-mail.

Oil Reserves

Libya has proved oil reserves of 44.3 billion barrels, the most in Africa, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. BP’s worldwide operations have come under examination after an unstable well caused an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, killing 11 and starting an oil spill.

“Libya due to start in a matter of weeks,” Wine said today in an e-mail. “Rig is being made ready, final preparations and checks are underway.”

In August 2009, the Scottish government freed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. He was the only person found guilty of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

‘Public Record’

“It is a matter of public record that in late 2007 BP discussed with the U.K. government our concern at the slow progress in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement,” the company said today.

“We were aware that a delay might have negative consequences for U.K. commercial interests, including ratification of BP’s exploration agreement. However, we did not express a view about the specific form of the agreement, which was a matter for the U.K. and Libyan governments,” it said in statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News.

Libya formally accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie attack in 2003 and agreed to pay up to $2.7 billion in damages to families of the victims. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi finished settling claims of U.S. Lockerbie victims with a $1.5 billion installment last year.

The country was removed from the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism in 2006 after Qaddafi agreed to give up chemical weapons and compensate Lockerbie victims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eduard Gismatullin in London at egismatullin@bloomberg.net

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