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Obama Says BP Fully Responsible for Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Watch/Listen to President Obama's Press Conference

U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. government will hold BP fully accountable for a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Obama told reporters Thursday that BP is responsible for what he called a "horrific disaster" that began when an oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and rupturing an undersea well.

The president countered criticism that his administration has not been involved enough in the cleanup and containment effort, saying BP is operating at the government's direction.

BP is currently trying to stop the well with a procedure called a "top kill." It involves pumping a mixture of heavy fluids into the well to combat the leak, then using cement to seal it off.

U.S. scientists Thursday said new estimates show the well has been leaking at least 12,000 barrels of oil a day, which would make it the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

The "top kill" procedure is difficult because of the depth of the well - 1,500 meters below the surface.

Listen to David Byrd's interview with Mike Senatore from Defenders of Wildlife:

Mr. Obama said he is extending a ban on new deepwater oil projects for six months to prevent other disasters.

The move will also suspend applications for Arctic oil drilling off the coast of Alaska.

Frustration with BP and the government's response has risen as oil washes up on southern coastlines, endangering wildlife and the commercial fishing industry.

U.S. officials have closed 20 percent of federal fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the spill. Fishermen in the state of Louisiana are pressing BP to compensate them for the losses to their businesses.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, Environmental Impact