Obama tells Cameron BP criticism not aimed at Britain

12th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama told British Prime Minister David Cameron in a phone call Saturday that his sharp criticism of BP was "nothing to do with national identity," Downing Street said.

Obama also stressed that he had "no interest" in undermining the British oil giant and made clear he saw it as a global company, amid fears that his heated rhetoric was stoking an anti-British backlash over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

It was also confirmed that Cameron, who took office last month, will visit the United States for the first time as prime minister on July 20 for talks with Obama.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister's Downing Street office said Obama and Cameron spoke on the telephone Saturday for more than 30 minutes.

"The president and prime minister agreed that BP should continue -- as they have pledged -- to work intensively to ensure that all sensible and reasonable steps are taken as rapidly as practicable to deal with the consequences of this catastrophe," she said.

"President Obama said to the prime minister that his unequivocal view was that BP was a multinational global company and that frustrations about the oil spill had nothing to do with national identity.

"The prime minister stressed the economic importance of BP to the UK, US and other countries. The president made clear that he had no interest in undermining BP's value.

"The president and prime minister reaffirmed their confidence in the unique strength of the US-UK relationship."

Downing Street characterised the conversation as "warm and constructive" and said it was a "routine" contact, not an emergency response to the growing tensions over the oil spill, triggered when the Deepwater Horizon rig that BP leased exploded on April 20.

The British press had expressed outrage at Obama's language and had urged Cameron to stand up to the president in the scheduled phone call.

Business leaders and politicians also feared Obama was stirring up anti-British sentiment.

Obama had been referring to BP as "British Petroleum" and said he wanted to know "whose ass to kick" over the worst environmental disaster in US history.

Newspapers suggested that Obama's popularity was waning, he was floundering over the environmental disaster and was looking for easy targets to hit out at, with one eye on the November mid-term elections.

Before his visit to the United States, Cameron and Obama are to meet face-to-face in Canada at the G8 summit in Muskoka, Ontario on June 25-26 and the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26-27.

The Downing Street spokeswoman said the two leaders discussed Afghanistan following Cameron's visit there this week.

The pair "agreed on the need for the European Council to signal tough measures in support of this week's clear message to the Iranian regime from New York that it must halt its military nuclear programme.

"They also discussed preparations for the G20, where the US and UK are also working together closely," she said.

© 2010 AFP

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