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June 3, 2010 at 10:00 PM
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President still backs safe offshore oil

WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama told an interviewer Thursday the United States should continue offshore oil drilling but only if it is possible to do it safely.

In an interview with Larry King set for broadcast Thursday night on CNN, the president said a moratorium following the disastrous BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico does not apply to wells in shallow water.

An oil industry trade group issued a statement Thursday charging the administration has pledged to impose "billions of dollars in new taxes on American oil and natural gas producers" and arguing such taxes would force small, independent producers out of business.

Independent Petroleum Association of America President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Russell said in the statement U.S. policy "should encourage responsible, American energy production, not shutting the industry down altogether."

"The president's call yesterday for billions of dollars in new taxes on American oil and natural gas producers is not new, and is not good energy or economic policy," Russell said. "While many reports characterize this initiative as taxing Big Oil, it is not."

Russell said combining higher taxes with moratoria on offshore exploration "seems like the worst option."

The White House announced Obama plans another trip to the gulf Friday and said the government has billed BP for $69 million, which represents 75 percent of the response and cleanup costs the company is being held responsible for to date.

The BP well has been spewing oil into the gulf at the rate of about 19,000 barrels a day since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform April 20. Eleven workers died in the blast and the rig sank two days later.

"Somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions," Obama told King, saying he is "furious."

Responding to questions at the White House Thursday about Obama's reaction to the spill and the failure to contain it so far, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said "if jumping up and down and screaming were to fix a hole in the ocean, we'd have done that five or six weeks ago. We'd have done that the first night."

In his interview with CNN, Obama said a speedy federal reaction has kept the spill from being even worse. But he said BP has the equipment and knowledge to stop the spill.

"My job is to make sure they're being held accountable," he said.

Obama, Brewer meet at White House

WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer met at the White House Thursday to discuss their differences on border, immigration and crime issues.

A statement released by the administration said the two found common ground on at least one thing: "... The president and governor agreed that the lack of action to fix the broken system at the federal level is unacceptable."

"The president urged Governor Brewer to be his partner in working in a bipartisan manner on comprehensive immigration reform to implement the type of smart, sensible and effective solutions the American people expect and deserve from their federal government," the statement said.

Obama also told Brewer of his concerns about Arizona's tough new immigration law, "including that a patchwork of different state immigration regulations around the country would interfere with the federal government's responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy."

The two discussed Obama's decision to deploy up to 1,200 more National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border and his request for $500 million in supplemental funds from Congress to beef up border protection and enhanced law enforcement.

While listening to Brewer's concerns, Obama noted his administration's efforts to put more pressure on illegal trafficking organizations that have resulted in significant drug seizures and a reduction in violent crime.

The Washington Post reported Brewer, a Republican, said Obama, a Democrat, told her he would send White House staff to Arizona to confer with state and local officials.

Brewer said the president was cordial and the White House said Obama thought it was a good meeting, The Washington Post reported.

Brewer said Obama didn't want to talk about whether the Justice Department intends to sue to block Arizona's law, set to take effect next month, the newspaper said.

Another aid vessel delays trip

GAZA, June 3 (UPI) -- Another aid ship has postponed a trip to Gaza to allow safety equipment to be installed, an activist said

The MV Rachel Corrie, an Irish-owned vessel named after a young U.S. woman killed in Gaza, had planned to arrive there Friday or Saturday, CNN reported. But Adam Shapiro, a spokesman for the Free Gaza Movement, said satellite and video equipment were being installed in case of another confrontation with the Israeli military.

Israel has offered to allow the Corrie to unload in Ashdod and to send its material to Gaza by land after a security check.

Also Thursday, Turkey announced one of the nine people killed in a clash between Israeli commandos and an aid convoy was a Turkish-born U.S. citizen. The Anatolia news agency identified him as Furkan Dogan, 19, a student, The Washington Post reported.

The deaths Monday aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara created a huge rift in Turkish-Israeli relations and brought a storm of criticism on Israel.

The nine bodies were returned to Turkey from Israel -- along with hundreds of activists detained after the raid -- aboard a Turkish plane Wednesday, the Post said.

Israeli officials said they couldn't identify the other eight victims, believed to be Turkish nationals, because the bodies didn't have any identification on them.

Obama to visit India in November

WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, addressing an audience at the U.S. State Department Thursday, said he will visit India in November.

During remarks to officials participating in the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, Obama said the United States and India have forged "an unprecedented partnership through this strategic dialogue."

Referring to this year's state visit to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama said the visit "demonstrated that our relations with India are at the highest of priorities for my administration" and the relationship between the two nations "will be a defining partnership in the 21st century."

"Moreover, the relationship between the United States and India is fundamentally unique … we share common interests, but we also share common values, as the world's two largest democracies, and as countries that are rich in diversity, with deep and close connections among our people," Obama said.

"We're deepening our economic cooperation -- on finance and investment and the trade that creates jobs in both of our countries. And I look forward to working with Prime Minister Singh and our fellow G20 partners this month in Toronto as we work to foster economic growth that is both balanced and sustained."

Obama said the United States and India are "cooperating more closely than ever before against transnational threats" and "broadening partnerships … in science, technology and global health."

"So when it comes to the sphere of our work -- building a future of greater prosperity, opportunity and security for our people, there is no doubt: I have to go to India," he said.

No date has been announced for the trip.

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