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BP's outgoing CEO won't testify on Lockerbie case

WASHINGTON - Outgoing BP chief executive Tony Hayward has refused a request by U.S. senators to testify next month about BP's role in the release of the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In a letter this week signed by Hayward and obtained by The Associated Press, Hayward told Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), that he is focused on ensuring a "smooth and successful leadership change" at the company and will be unable to testify. The committee is looking into whether the British-based oil company had sought Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's release to help get a $900- million exploration agreement with Libya off the ground.

The company has acknowledged that it had urged the British government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, but stressed it didn't specify al-Megrahi's case.

Al-Megrahi served eight years of a life sentence for the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing, which killed all 259 people on board, most of them Americans, and 11 people on the ground. In August last year, Scotland's government released the cancer-stricken man on compassionate grounds and he returned to Libya. At the time, doctors gave al-Megrahi three months to live, but he is still alive.

Menendez initially planned the hearing for last month, but was forced to postpone it when he couldn't get Hayward or officials from Britain and Scotland to testify.

The company offered to send a regional vice president for Europe, but Menendez wasn't satisfied. He wanted Hayward along with Sir Mark Allen, a BP adviser who Menendez said acted as a liaison between the company and the Libyan and British governments.

Hayward made it clear in his latest letter that it was more than a scheduling conflict. Citing public comments from British officials that they found no evidence BP played a role in al-Megrahi's release, Hayward said, "BP has nothing to add."

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