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Americas

Obama and Cameron head to head on Lockerbie and BP

media Barack Obama and David Cameron hold a joint news conference at the White … Photo: Reuters

US President Barack Obama welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron onto US soil Tuesday, in what was the British PM’s first official visit to Washington since taking office.

The White House may have served Cameron and his wife a lunch of wild striped bass and showered the couple with token gifts, but that wasn’t to say that hard politics were not on the agenda for the series of meetings that took place in the Oval office.

In fact, Obama led Cameron through an assault course of tricky subjects, which saw the two leaders confront the issues of the recent release of the Lockerbie bomber – a move the United States has been highly critical of; the ongoing circus surrounding the BP oil spill; and the future of British and American troops in Afghanistan.

Obama and Cameron made no bones about the fact that their meeting was also an effort to patch up the “special relationship” between the two nations, while also stressing that any political rows would be handled calmly.

Scotland's devolved government freed Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi - the only man convicted in the1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 720 people - on compassionate grounds last year after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Megrahi is still alive in Libya however, sparking fury among many Americans who believe he should never have been released.

Although Cameron condemned the release of Megrahi and offered his sympathy to enraged Americans he dismissed calls for a full inquiry into the decision, stating instead that all paperwork surrounding the case would be carefully looked at again by high-ranking civil servants.

Obama said that he was satisfied with this and expressed confidence that Cameron would come up with the facts of the case.

Cameron also took the opportunity to defend British-based BP from claims that the energy giant lobbied for Megrahi's release to ease business ties with Libya.

Talks naturally centred on the sealing of the ruptured oil well, as well as the subsequent clean up and compensation operations.

Obama and Cameron also paid mutual tribute to US and British soldiers killed in the Afghan war, while remaining adamant that their military strategy was effective. Obama said he wants to start bringing home at least some troops in July 2011 and Cameron said he wants British combat troops home within the next five years.

Critics remain fearful however as to whether the newly trained Afghan army will be up to the job by 2014.

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