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British, US Leaders Discuss Latest Oil Spill Developments

  • Tom Rivers

BP faces new pressure to do more to contain the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico

A weekend phone call between British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama appears to have calmed some of the trans-Atlantic rhetoric regarding BP and its handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The exchange of words between Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron that lasted for about 30 minutes has had the effect of calming down tensions, tensions that have risen as some here have sensed an anti-British tone in critical remarks made by some in Washington regarding BP's approach to the massive oil spill.

In his phone conversation Saturday, President Obama reportedly said that his frustration with BP was not about national identity.

Speaking to the BBC the next day, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the president's position is clear.

"I think the president made the United States' position very clear, they are not seeking, the United States, to undermine the value of BP," Hague said. "And they know full well that there are many thousands of people working for BP in the United States and there are almost as many American shareholders of BP as there are British shareholders and that is well understood on both sides of the Atlantic."

The BP board is expected to meet soon. Among the items on the agenda, members are expected to discuss whether to hold back on paying out any second-quarter earning dividends given the scale of the spill crisis in the Gulf.

President Obama plans to press BP executives this week to set up an escrow account to handle damage claims made by those directly affected by the disaster.

In his broadcast interview, William Hague was asked what he thought BP might do.

"BP will decide on its own dividend of course, but let us be clear, it has a big task in front of it and it has had to work hard in recent weeks," Hague said.

During the weekend, the U.S. government gave BP 48 hours to come up with a more aggressive plan to capture a greater percentage of the leaking oil.

Hague stressed that BP must do its utmost to stop the release, to come up with a permanent solution and to do everything possible to mitigate the consequences.

Hague also said Britain stands ready to help.

"The U.K. government, we are playing our part in offering large quantities of chemical dispersant to the United States in order to try to help with this so, it has got a huge task in front of it, let us not, let us not underestimate that in any way," Hague said.

BP's chairman will meet with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday.