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Obama, Cameron dampen US-British prickliness on BP Gulf oil spill

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the BP Gulf oil spill by phone Saturday. While the talk was cordial, the US has not let up its pressure on BP.

By Staff Writer / June 12, 2010

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday. The two leaders discussed the BP Gulf oil spill.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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While each kept an eye on the US-England World Cup soccer match Saturday, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to dampen any rhetorical prickliness between their two countries over the BP Gulf oil spill.

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In a half hour phone call Saturday, the two leaders in essence were reaffirming the "special relationship" enjoyed by the United States and Great Britain for generations.

Cameron's Downing Street office later described the conversation as "warm and constructive."

IN PICTURES: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

The recently-elected prime minister "expressed his sadness at the ongoing human and environmental catastrophe," according to a statement, while also pointing out BP's global economic importance - including to Americans, who hold a large portion of the oil giant's stocks (which have sunk in value since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, sank, and began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico).

Downing Street said the two men agreed that BP should continue "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," according to the Associated Press.

For his part, Obama "affirmed his deep commitment to the special and historic relationship between our two countries," according to a White House statement.

But beyond that, the White House would only say that "the President and the Prime Minister discussed the impact of tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reiterating that BP must do all it can to respond effectively to the situation."

In recent days, Obama has ratcheted up his criticism of BP, sometimes using the company's former name - "British Petroleum" - as an epithet while also suggesting that he would have fired BP CEO Tony Hayward. That's rankled some British officials, one of whom called Obama's rhetorical needling "a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan, political, presidential petulance."

While Obama and Cameron may have tried to make nice Saturday, the US has not let up its pressure on BP.

In a letter to BP Friday, Rear Admiral James Watson, the on-scene coordinator for the oil spill, wrote: “I am concerned that your current plans do not provide for maximum mobilization of resources to provide the needed collection capacity consistent with the revised flow estimates.”

“I am also concerned that your plan does not go far enough to mobilize redundant resources in the event of an equipment failure with one of the vessels or some other unforeseen problem," Rear Adm. Watson wrote, adding that BP “must identify in the next 48 hours additional leak containment capacity that could be operationalized and expedited to avoid the continued discharge of oil from the Macado 252 well into the Gulf with expanded redundancy.”

There's no indication that either Obama or Cameron took notice of the worldwide protests against BP Saturday. They did, however, place a beer wager on the outcome of the World Cup match between the two countries, which ended in a 1-1 tie - a moral victory for the US since England was favored to win.

IN PICTURES: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

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