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BP faces Lockerbie accusations amid delays over oil cap tests

By Nairita Das

Washington, July 15 (ANI): US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged to look into demands from a group of senators for an investigation into charges that BP lobbied for the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi as part of an oil-for-terrorist deal.

According to The Guardian, the oil company faces the prospect of being shut out of America after legislation that could ban it from offshore drilling projects for seven years cleared its first hurdle.

Four senators have demanded that BP put its plans to drill in the Gulf of Sidra on hold unless British and state department investigations clear the company of maneuvering for Megrahi's release.

"It is almost too disgusting to fathom that BP had a possible role in securing the release of the Lockerbie terrorist in return for an oil drilling deal," Charles Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York, told reporters on Wednesday.

Megrahi was convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in which 270 people died.

He was released on compassionate grounds last August after doctors said he was suffering from cancer and had likely only months to live. He is still alive after his transfer to Tripoli.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. "Every day that he lives as a free man, we think is an affront to the families of and victims of Pan Am 103."

The White House added to the pressure on BP today, putting a 24-hour delay on the oil company's plans of deploying its new tighter-fitting cap over its fractured well in the Gulf of Mexico so engineers could perform additional safety reviews.

Meanwhile, BP's future in America looked precarious as Congress took up measures that could severely restrict its activities.

The House committee on natural resources today approved a proposal from a California Democrat, George Miller, that would ban oil companies with a history of violating safety and environmental regulations from new drilling projects.

On paper, companies would be banned if more than 10 workers are killed at any of their facilities or they have been fined more than $10m for polluting waters, over the previous seven years.

Companies would also have to prove they have paid in full for any damages or clean-up costs resulting from an oil spill.

In reality, however, this would only apply to BP. The company is expected to face billions in fines for the Gulf disaster, and had a history of safety and environmental violations well before the blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

Congressional hearings have since zeroed in on BP's history in the US, which include more than 700 safety and environmental violations over the last five years - compared with fewer than 10 for the other big oil companies.

Most of those violations were for projects outside the world of offshore drilling, including a 2005 explosion at a Texas refinery that killed 15 workers and a badly maintained pipeline that spewed 200,000 gallons of oil along Alaska's North Slope.

The ban would not apply to existing leases, and would still allow BP to act as a minority partner on leases.

But another amendment, due to be taken up today, would require the government to consider an oil company's safety record before awarding offshore leases rather than choose the highest bidder.

The company is also facing months, if not years, of congressional scrutiny. (ANI)

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