London: The US held secret "deal in the desert" talks with Libya in 2003 to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, just two years into his life sentence, a media report said.
In fact, one of America`s most senior spies tried to broker a "trade for terrorist" swap with Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi six years before the release of the Lockerbie bomber by Scotland in 2009, the `Daily Express` reported.
Stephen Kappes, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was the driving force behind negotiations to end Libya`s diplomatic isolation. He had held secret meetings with the Libyan leader in 2003, accompanied by MI6 agent Sir Mark Allen, the report said.
Al-Megrahi, convicted in 1988 for the bombing of the Pan Am flight, which killed 259 on board and 11 on the ground, was freed last August after Scotland`s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill allowed the "ill" bomber to return to Libya, amid claims that it paved the way for lucrative oil deals for UK.
It`s said officials of oil giant British Petroleum lobbied UK government officials to release al-Megrahi so that it could secure an offshore oil project with Libya.
The US Senate`s foreign relations committee has now called for a probe into whether BP had actually lobbied the UK to try to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish jail.
The committee wants BP to answer claims about an oil deal based on the release. But, the new revelation that the US spies also initiated secret talks with Libya in 2003 will now fuel pressure on the Senate to widen its current inquiry.
Meanwhile, the Scottish government has denied claims that BP lobbied its ministers and insisted that al-Megrahi was released on "compassionate grounds". "The Scottish government had no contact from BP in relation to al-Megrahi," a spokesman said.