US senator blasts BP as chief ducks Lockerbie hearing

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A US senator blasted BP Tuesday after the oil giant said its outgoing chief, Tony Hayward, would not testify at a hearing this week on whether the firm had a hand in the Lockerbie bomber's release.

"I would have thought that a company on thin ice with the American people for devastating the Gulf Coast would want to fully cooperate with our effort to fully understand the release of a terrorist who murdered 189 Americans," said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

Menendez, who was to lead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing into the issue on Thursday, accused BP and Hayward of being consumed by his "multi-million dollar golden parachute" as he leaves the firm's top post.

The lawmaker vowed to keep pressing for Hayward to testify on "serious lingering questions about whether the company advocated trading blood for oil" and pressed for the bomber's release to safeguard a lucrative deal with Libya.

The hearing was to focus on BP's alleged role in Scotland's decision last August to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the only man convicted over the 1988 bombing that killed 270 people -- most of them Americans.

Authorities freed Megrahi on compassionate grounds after being assured he suffered from terminal cancer and had three months to live -- but nearly a year later, he is alive in his native Libya.

© 2010 AFP

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