Obama: Gov't in charge of Gulf oil disaster response
(AP) - President Barack Obama moved aggressively toshow his government is in charge of the Gulf oil spill on Thursday,calling the spill an "unprecedented disaster" and blasting a"scandalously close relationship" between oil companies andregulators. "The American people should know that from the moment thisdisaster began, the federal government has been in charge of theresponse effort," Obama told a news conference. He was respondingto criticism that his administration had been slow to act and hadleft BP in charge of plugging the leak. Obama said many critics failed to realize "this has been ourhighest priority." He conceded that "people are going to be frustrated until itstops." Obama announced a series of new steps to deal with the aftermathof the spill, including continuing a moratorium on drilling permitsfor six months. He also said he was suspending planned exploration drilling offthe coasts of Alaska and Virginia and on 33 wells currently beingdrilled in the Gulf of Mexico. The president, speaking to reporters in the East Room of theWhite House, spoke as oil giant BP pumped mudlike heavy drillingoil into the well in hopes of stopping the flow. He said while the "top kill" procedure was an example of hisadministration's willingness to try "any reasonable strategy" tostop the gusher, the process "offers no guarantee of success." Over and over, the president sought to counter criticism thatthe administration was giving too much leeway to BP. "Make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction," he said.