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Cameron seeks to avoid US rift over BP

David Cameron will today try to snuff out any hint of a diplomatic rift with America over BP when he talks to Barack Obama amid growing anger over the US President’s attacks on the British-based oil giant.

 

Downing Street stressed the discussion would be “statesmanlike”, having already made clear the PM shared Obama’s frustration at the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Cameron will also be mindful of keeping relations friendly with the US administration as he is due to meet the President later this month for the G8, and will have his first trip to Washington in July.

Yesterday, No 10 said the PM had a constructive call with Carl-Henric Svanberg, the BP chairman.

“The Prime Minister explained he was frustrated and concerned about the environmental damage caused by the leak, but made clear his view that BP is an economically important company in the UK, US and other countries,” a spokesman said.

“He said it was in everyone’s interests BP continued to be a financially strong and stable company.”

Earlier, Chancellor George Osborne and senior officials met Svanberg to discuss the crisis.

BP directors plan to meet on Monday to decide whether to suspend the firm’s dividend payment -- expected to be £1.7 billion. Svanberg has been invited to the White House next week for a meeting with Obama.

As one of Britain’s biggest companies, the oil giant is a mainstay of virtually every British pension fund. BP’s dividend payments come to more than £7bn a year, ie £1 in every £6 paid out in dividends to British pension funds.

Yesterday in Afghanistan, Cameron sought to play down burgeoning US/UK tensions, saying: “Obviously, everyone wants everything to be done that can be done. Of course, that is something I will be discussing with the American president.”

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