U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday blasted Scottish authorities' decision to release the convicted Lockerbie bomber last year. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)
Washington (CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday blasted Scottish authorities' decision to release the convicted Lockerbie bomber last year and agreed on the need to push for a more transparent disclosure of the circumstances surrounding Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi's release.
The two leaders also said they addressed a range of issues in talks at the White House, including the war in Afghanistan, sanctions against Iran, the state of the global economy, and the responsibilities of BP - a British company - in the wake of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The meeting was part of Cameron's first U.S. visit as Britain's leader. The two men met with reporters at the White House shortly after huddling behind closed doors.
Cameron said the release of al Megrahi, who had been sentenced to life for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was "completely wrong." Al Megrahi, he noted, was "the biggest mass murder in British history."
Cameron promised that the British government will cooperate with a congressional investigation into the controversy, though he stressed that the decision to release al Megrahi was made by the Scottish government without any involvement from BP.
"There is absolutely no harm to be done in giving the fullest possible explanation" regarding the decision to release al Megrahi, Cameron said. But "I don't think there's any mystery here," he said. It was simply a "misguided decision" by Scottish authorities.
The Scottish government freed al Megrahi last August on compassionate grounds after doctors said he had terminal prostate cancer and just three months to live. Al Megrahi is still alive nearly a year later, and news reports in recent days have questioned whether he was as sick as depicted. Questions also have been raised about whether a deal was cut to release him to protect British business interests in Libya, with oil giant BP exerting influence in the case.
The Scottish government has insisted that BP never lobbied to free al Megrahi.
Obama said most Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angry" with the decision to let the Lockerbie bomber go. "We should have all the facts," he added. "They should be laid out there." The decision "ran contrary to how we should be treating terrorists."
Turning to BP's responsibilities in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Cameron said he "completely understands" the anger that now exists "across America."
"It is BP's role to cap the leak" and compensate people affected by it, he said it. The prime minister insisted he's in regular touch with BP's leadership.
The two men said they were united in their goals for the Afghan war and in terms of preventing Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Obama also indicated they had both reaffirmed their commitment to fiscal responsibility in light of spiraling deficits in the major Western economies. At the same time, however, the president stressed that different countries are taking slightly different approaches depending on their specific circumstances.
Obama has pushed for the need for greater stimulus spending in the short term while addressing deficits as more of a long term issue; Cameron entered office pledging the enactment of immediate austerity measures. In keeping with those measures, his office said earlier, the prime minister flew on a commercial flight to Washington.
– CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.