Lockerbie Bombing: British Officials and U.S. Families Discuss al-Megrahi Release

White House organized a call giving victims families access to British officials

July 21, 2010 -- The White House organized a conference call Tuesday night for families of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing – giving them direct access to U.S. and British officials amid questions over whether oil giant BP lobbied for the release of one of the Lockerbie bombers as the company sought oil contracts with Libya.

Americans are already angry at British-based BP over the Gulf Oil Spill. Allegations that the company lobbied for the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi last year in order to help secure a lucrative oil exploration deal with Libya, brought the nearly 22 year-old terror bombing back into the news just as new British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Washington for policy meetings with President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday's call, convened by the National Security Council's Denis McDonough and attended by some 15 family members, was Tom Fletcher, personal secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron.

During the 25 minute call, Fletcher recapped Cameron's meetings with Congressional leaders and a group of concerned senators from New York and New Jersey who first raised the allegations.

A participant on the call tells ABC News that Fletcher reiterated Cameron's position that the release was the wrong decision. But he added that a high ranking official would review documents from previous governments to determine if BP lobbied for al Megrahi's release. The review will be conducted by Britain's most senior civilian official, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, since the prime minister is not allowed to look into files from previous governments.

BP has denied it lobbied for al Megrahi's release, and the British Foreign Secretary said in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the weekend that his government saw no link between the British oil giant and the convicted bomber's release by Scottish authorities.

With Britain's largest company embroiled in a public relations nightmare in the Gulf, Fletcher sought to draw a distinction between the BP oil spill and the question over whether the company lobbied for al Megrahi's release.

The participant, Kara Weipz, whose brother was killed aboard the flight, told ABC News she didn't hear anything on the call that surprised her or broke any new ground.

"What happened last August was one of biggest injustices that can happen," she said. "All the stuff this past week was just as upsetting."

Still, she said that the fact the British government decided to reach out to victims' families like this was of some comfort.

Cameron: Releasing Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was Wrong

Libyan-born al Megrahi was convicted of masterminding the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people, most of them American. He was sentenced to life in prison but was released and allowed to return to Libya last year on compassionate grounds after it was determined he had only three months left to live. Al Megrahi beat the prognosis and lives on, now free in Libya.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer and at a press conference alongside President Obama Tuesday,Cameron insisted repeatedly that the decision to release al Megrahi was solely that of the Scottish government and he has not seen anything to indicate that they were swayed by any lobbying efforts by BP. He also said he did not think there was a need for a U.-K. based inquiry into the matter.

"I don't need an inquiry to tell me what was a bad decision," he said. "It was a bad decision."

The British Prime Minister did say that while there was "absolutely not harm to be done" by providing a full explanation into the circumstances, he did not think there was "any great mystery here."

"There was a decision taken by the Scottish Executive -- in my view, a wholly wrong and misguided decision, a bad decision, but their decision, nonetheless," he said. "That's what happened, and I don't think we need an extra inquiry to tell us that that's what happened."

Obama said he agreed that the release of al Megrahi was a "bad decision," but he said he fully supports Cameron's efforts to learn more.

American senators from New York and New Jersey demanded a meeting with Cameron, and have scheduled public hearings on the al-Megrahi matter for next week. Cameron had initially declined to meet with the senators, but said he changed his mind Tuesday because he ""recognizes the strength of feelings" about the Lockerbie bomber, a Downing Street spokesman told ABC News.

Schumer: BP - Lockerbie Investigation Still Possible

In letters addressed to Secretary Clinton last Monday and Tuesday the four senators from New York and New Jersey, where the majority of American victims were from, questioned doctor's prognosis as al Megrahi is still alive one year after his release. They also alleged the transfer happened only after BP leaned on the British government so that it could win the lucrative oil deal.

BP concedes it expressed concern to the British government that the slow progress of a separate prisoner transfer agreement with Libya could harm British business interests there.

"BP was not involved in any such discussions about the release of Mr Al Megrahi," the company said in a statement

ABC's Karen Travers Contributed to this report