US Lockerbie hearing delayed

Senator accuses British witnesses of "stonewalling" as hearing is postponed.

US Senate hearings on the alleged involvement of BP in the release of the Lockerbie bomber have been postponed after key witnesses declined to take part.

Outgoing BP boss Tony Hayward refused to attend, as did former UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Senator Robert Menendez, due to chair the hearing, expressed anger. "We don't intend for this to be forgotten or swept under the rug," he said.

"They have stonewalled. Each side has claimed innocence, each side has blamed the other.

"It is a game of diplomatic tennis that is worthy of Wimbledon, but not worthy on behalf of the lives of the families who still have to deal with this terrorist act and the consequences of the loss of loved ones in their lives."

The BBC quotes a diplomatic source as saying: "It would have been extremely unusual for a parliamentarian of one country to be held accountable to the parliamentarians of another."

Downing Street has drawn attention to the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron met with four US senators about the matter last week, and agreed to make many more documents available.

US politicians are investigating the allegation that the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, was related to an oil deal between BP and Libya.