President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to ease transatlantic tensions over BP yesterday and both men reaffirmed the much-vaunted “special relationship” between their countries.


Cameron said he understood American public anger over BP’s role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and tried to defuse U.S. lawmakers’ concerns that the oil giant may have influenced the release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison last year.


But Cameron, under pressure at home to stand up for the British energy giant against the bashing it has faced in the United States, also insisted it was in U.S. and British interests for the company to remain strong and stable.


Obama, whose approval ratings have been undercut by public outrage over the spill, avoided the tough language he has often used against BP over its handling of the Gulf disaster and played down the simmering controversy over the Lockerbie case.


“I completely understand the anger that exists right across America. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a catastrophe,” Cameron told reporters as he stood side by side with Obama at a White House news conference. “It is BP’s role to cap the leak, clean up the mess and pay appropriate compensation.”

But he cautioned, “Let us not confuse the oil spill with the Libyan bomber.”

Cameron insisted BP had no role in the release of the Abdel Basset al-Megrahi by Scottish authorities, which he opposed at the time, and promised his government would cooperate with any U.S. congressional hearings into the case.

Obama said he was confident that the British government would cooperate to make sure all the facts are known about the case.