Obama wins important concessions from BP

U.S. President Barack Obama, powerless to stop the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, exerted tremendous pressure on Wednesday to win important concessions from BP executives and notch a much-needed success.

In a White House meeting, BP executives agreed to key U.S. demands: establishment of a $20 billion account to pay Gulf damage claims, an $100 million fund for unemployed oil rig workers and a suspension of dividend payments this year.

"The reason the president had this meeting was to come out with an agreement like this," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

* The outcome was the most tangible success for Obama since the 58-day crisis began.

The creation of the escrow account could give some people in the Gulf a morale boost and help mollify unemployed fishermen, shrimpers and others who are worried that their way of life has disappeared in a plume of oil.

It could help damp down a developing Washington narrative that he has not performed effectively during the worst U.S. oil spill ever.

Obama had specifically complained about BP possibly paying out billions of dollars in dividends to investors during a June 4 visit to the Gulf.

"What I don't want to hear is, when they're spending that kind of money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they're nickel-and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time," he had said.

* Until the leak is stopped, Obama will face questions about his performance.

He has been criticized by even some Democratic allies. Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to complain that Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf was too long.

"The deepwater industry cannot survive in the Gulf with a six-month pause," she said.

Americans are not all that happy with Obama either. An AP-GfK poll found that 52 percent did not approve of his handling of the disaster while 45 percent approved.

* The BP developments came the day after Obama delivered an address from the Oval Office to declare war on the oil spill 56 days after it had begun, calling it an "assault on our shores."

Republicans complained that the speech was too focused on climate change legislation rather than simply concentrating on stopping the deep-sea gusher and cleaning up the mess.

[Fuente: By Steve Holland, Reuters, 16Jun10]

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