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Obama wants BP to set up escrow account for claims

Posted by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 1:51 PM
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will demand that BP create a special account with "substantial" reserves to pay Gulf oil claims and will take other steps aimed at aiding the region, his top political adviser said Sunday.

Obama, set to visit the Gulf Coast on Monday and Tuesday, also plans an Oval Office address Tuesday night after his return to Washington. He meets at the White House with BP executives, including the oil company's chairman, on Wednesday.

"This is an ongoing crisis, much like an epidemic," David Axelrod told NBC's "Meet the Press."

BP's board was to meet on Monday to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into escrow until the company's liabilities from the spill are known. "We're aware of the request," BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said in London.

"Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way," Axelrod said.

The White House wants an independent, third party to administer the escrow account and compensate those with "legitimate" claims for damages, he said. The amount of money set aside will be part of the White House discussions, but Axelrod said it should be "substantial."

"We're not interested in undermining the integrity of their company, but this disaster is having an impact on their company," he said. "We believe that BP has the resources to meet the claims, and we're going to make sure that they do. They're a highly profitable company. They've got lots of assets. They have the prospect of continuing, but they have to meet their obligations here."

Axelrod brushed aside criticism that Obama has not yet met or spoken to BP CEO Tony Hayward, saying that Hayward knows what the administration's demands have been since the crisis began. He also would not say whether the administration trusts BP officials but rejected the idea that the U.S. and the petroleum giant are "partners" in dealing with the spill.

"I don't consider them a partner," Axelrod said. "I don't consider them — they're not social friends. I'm not looking to make judgments about their soul, I just want to make sure they do what they're required to do."

Asked if Obama would announce any kind of direct assistance for those affected by the spill, Axelrod said, "I think that the assistance is going to come from BP." The adviser did not specify what other steps Obama planned.

The president will make clear in his meeting Wednesday with BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and others about his expectation of BP's responsibility for caring for people affected by the spill, Axelrod said.

"They're responsible for it and want to make sure that they meet that responsibility," Axelrod said, adding that Obama believes BP has a legal and moral obligation.

BP spokeswoman Williams said "all options are on the table" at Monday's board meeting. At the White House, company leaders will "listen to their comments, and we've obviously got our comments as well."

In the meeting, Obama is set to follow the example of some Gulf states, which aim to put the squeeze on the company amid talk of the possibility that BP eventually may file for bankruptcy.

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by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 1:51 PM
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