BP admits lobbying for Libyan prisoners' transfer

The oil giant BP yesterday confirmed it had lobbied the UK government over a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya in late 2007.

HOUSTON // The oil giant BP yesterday confirmed it had lobbied the UK government over a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya in late 2007. The admission is the latest illustration of the pressure the company is facing in the United States as it battles to stem the flow from a Gulf of Mexico oil well which has caused the worst offshore spill in US history. BP, which is in US lawmakers' crosshairs over the disaster, could face being barred from getting new US offshore oil and gas exploration leases for up to seven years under a bill being considered in the US Congress.

In a statement released yesterday the British company said: "BP told the UK government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya. "We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan government of BP's exploration agreement." In August 2009, Britain released a Libyan convicted of blowing up a US jet, angering the United States. Many of the 270 dead in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing were American. BP said, however, it was not involved in discussions regarding the release of Abdel Basset Ali al Megrahi. "The decision to release al Megrahi in August 2009 was taken by the Scottish government. It is not for BP to comment on the decision of the Scottish government. BP was not involved in any such discussions about the release of al Megrahi," it said.

Last night BP planned to launch a critical pressure test on its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well after fixing a leak that had halted the operation. The company is trying to test a fix to the oil well that could staunch the gushing flow of crude. The has polluted the ocean and coastline for nearly three months. Kent Wells, BP's senior vice president of exploration and production, said the company replaced a leaking hose and would launch the pressure test - postponed after finding the leak - "later in the day".

A leak in a line connected to one of the valves in a capping device was the latest setback for the company, which has seen its share value and reputation battered as it has sought to stem the flow of oil. The Gulf spill started after an explosion at a rig on April 20 ruptured an undersea well and killed 11 workers. The disaster has soiled hundreds of miles of shoreline and shut down about a third of Gulf fisheries.

BP installed a capping device on the well on Monday and started shutting a sequence of valves after getting approval from the US government, which delayed the plan by 24 hours on fears the process could irreparably damage the well. * Reuters