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Straw: Oil a factor in Libya prisoner pact

LONDON, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- British Justice Minister Jack Straw says trade and Libyan oil were factors in his change of heart on the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Straw said the decision to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was made in Scotland, and Scottish officials probably moved more quickly than the British government would have. Megrahi, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, was freed on grounds of compassion.

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But Straw said he changed his mind about Megrahi while negotiating a prisoner-transfer agreement with Libya in 2007.He originally wanted Megrahi barred from transfer.

With BP, the British oil giant, warning that failing to bend would hurt its interests, Straw said oil was a factor.

"I'm unapologetic about that.... Libya was a rogue state," he said. "We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal."

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killed 270 people, including 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. Most of the dead were U.S. citizens, many of them college students going home for Christmas break.

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