July 20, 2010 -- Britain's prime minister has vowed to cooperate fully with a proposed congressional hearing into a possible connection between BP's oil interests in Libya and the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. But he said today that a full British inquiry was unnecessary.
"Today I'm asking the cabinet secretary in the UK to go back over all the paperwork and see if there's anything else that should be released so there's the clearest possible picture out there of what decision was taken and why ," Prime Minister David Cameron told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview hours before his meeting with President Obama.
"I don't need an inquiry to tell me what I think I already know," he added," which is it was a bad decision to release him and it was a bad decision to even contemplate this. "
Cameron said it was Scotland's government, not his and not BP's, that made that decision.
"He was convicted of the biggest mass murder in British history," he said. " In my view that man should have died in jail."
Cameron's first official trip to the United States comes amid an explosion of criticism that his government may have been pressured by BP to trade the release of cancer-stricken al-Megrahi for lucrative oil contracts in Libya.
Al-Megrahi, who was believed to have only three months to live, was freed on compassionate grounds nearly a year ago, but is now reportedly in good health and living the hero's life in Libya, causing outrage among the families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 PanAm bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Cameron said he objected to the call by a group of U.S. senators for a drilling moratorium in Libya until the connection between BP contracts and al-Megrahi's release is fully investigated. "I think that trying to connect these issues up, I don't think, is right, frankly," Cameron told Sawyer.
"There are arguments about BP in the Gulf and there are arguments that BP should answer about who they lobbied about what and when and all the rest of it," he said, "but I don't think that actually changes what really happened, which was a decision was taken by a legitimate government."
After initially turning down a request to meet with senators from New York and New Jersey on the issue, Cameron confirmed he would sit down with them to discuss their concerns.
BP has admitted asking the British government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement, but said al-Megrahi was never mentioned specifically.
David Cameron: Legislation to Target Only BP is Wrong
The 43-year-old prime minister, Britain's youngest leader in nearly 200 years, carefully sidestepped criticizing the Obama administration for its crackdown on BP after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cameron said he agreed BP needs to step up and not only cap the well, but also pay out whatever compensation and fines are required by the U.S government, but said he opposed any legislation that targets BP and not others in the industry
"Would it be right to say that BP has to pay compensation for damages that were nothing to do directly with their spill, I don't think that would be right, so I think we have to be clear about what their responsibility is," he said.
But he declined to say whether he addressed any specific concerns with the Obama administration's handling of the crisis during a recent discussion with the president.
"I don't want to, as I say, to get into a war of words," Cameron said. "What matters is dealing with the issue. And the issue is, the spill in the gulf, the need to cap the wells, the need to make the payments."
"I'm interested in not making this into a U.S.-UK issue. It shouldn't' be," he said. "It's in our interests in the long term that this company has a strength and stability to be able to make those payments, clear up the spill and continue as a strong and independent and loyal business."
Cameron will meet with Obama later today to discuss a variety of leadership issues, including the war in Afghanistan and economic strategies.
He told Sawyer that while the shared mission in Afghanistan has gotten back on track, he's disappointed that the "world looked the other way" after the Taliban was largely removed and attention turned to the war in Iraq.
"For too long, we weren't pursuing the right strategy. For too long, we didn't have all the pieces in place," he said. "I profoundly believe now, at least we have got the pieces in place."
He reiterated past statements that he'd like to see British troops make yet another attempt to teach the Afghans to take responsibility for their own security and then withdraw combat forces by 2015.
But one strategy Cameron and Obama don't share is how to pull their respective countries out of their economic struggles. Obama has leaned heavily on stimulus plans meant to create jobs and boost spending. But Cameron --who said he was pleasantly surprised at Obama's "frankness" when they first met -- has talked about a tax increase and budget cuts of 20 to 25 percent, slicing across a multitude of government programs, including defense.
"America is still a reserve currency. You guys can run a bigger deficit for longer than we can," Cameron said. "But, you know, this year, we are borrowing more than virtually any other country in the G20."
"It's necessary for Britain to tighten its belt and to prove that we can live within our means," he said. "I mean, I'm a conservative. I believe that, you know, if you borrow too much, you just build up debts for your children to pay off. You put pressure on interest rates. You put at risk your economy. That's the case in Britain. "
David Cameron: New Challenge for the New Prime Minister
"Well, there'll be the usual family row about who does what," Cameron joked. "I mean, I'll try and be a good, hands-on dad. But Sam and I have talked about it and she said, 'You know, I expect you to be a bit less hands-on this time around.'"
But Cameron said he's promised his wife – and himself – that he'll make time for family vacations and special moments.
"You've got to make sure that you do find time for your family and your children," he said. "If you get frazzled and fried and exhausted and forget who you are, then you're going to be a rubbish dad. But you'll probably be a rubbish prime minister too."