Obama: US government in charge of oil disaster

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The Independent US

Barack Obama moved today to show his government is in charge of the Gulf oil spill, calling the spill an "unprecedented disaster" and blasting a "scandalously close relationship" between oil companies and regulators.

The US President told a news conference at the White House: "The American people should know that, from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort."

He was responding to criticism that his administration had been slow to act and had left oil giant BP in charge of plugging the leak.

Mr Obama said many critics failed to realise "this has been our highest priority".

But he conceded that "people are going to be frustrated until it stops".

The President said a moratorium on new deepwater oil wells would be extended for six months while further investigations of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico were carried out.

He also said that regulators must have more time to review permits for drilling and must pay closer attention to environmental laws.

Mr Obama said some proposed drilling lease sales would be cancelled. He decried what he called a "scandalously close relationship" between regulators and oil companies and said that would be stopped.

He said he would use the full force of the federal government to protect citizens and that BP would be required to reimburse all claims.

He is due to visit the Gulf tomorrow.