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BP's health also in best interests of U.S.: British PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron

Matthew Busch/AP

The future health of beleaguered oil giant BP is in not merely a British concern, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told Barack Obama in a private conversation Sunday.

The recently elected Mr. Cameron said he urged Mr. Obama to see it as an issue that is vital for both countries, as BP struggles to stem the flow of oil gushing from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Speaking at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Toronto, Mr. Cameron said the sensitive topic of the oil spill was among the issues he raised with Mr. Obama in a private conversation.

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Concerns are growing in England about the future of BP, amid a backlash by the American people against the company over the growing environmental disaster. Mr. Cameron said he raised the topic of stabilizing BP for the future, and that the British corporation wants to clean up the mess - which is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

It is the first time the two leaders have had an opportunity to discuss the oil spill in person since Mr. Cameron's election.

"The point I've been making, and I think this is understood quite clearly by the American people - BP wants to cap the well, it wants to clear up the mess, it wants to pay compensation," Mr. Cameron said.

His comments come after a weekend in which both leaders made an effort to make a public show of co-operation. When planes were grounded due to fog when leaders were moving from G8 talks in Huntsville, Ont., to Toronto for the G20, Mr. Obama invited Mr. Cameron aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter.

At a G20 dinner Saturday night at Toronto's Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Mr. Obama further praised Mr. Cameron for his efforts to shore up the U.K. fiscal plan. It was a stark difference to Mr. Obama's tough talk in recent weeks about punishing BP over its inability to stop the flow of oil from gushing into the gulf.

The BP disaster is one of the most difficult issues the recently elected Mr. Cameron inherits as the new British Prime Minister. While U.S. politicians have been calling for harsh penalties for BP, including hefty compensation costs, angst has been growing in Britain, where one of the country's most vaunted companies has seen its stock plummet. And since BP is widely held by pension funds in England, that has had a direct impact on the retirements of British people.

Mr. Cameron said BP's health going forward is in the best interests of both the U.S. and the U.K., and that the countries should work together to find a solution.

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BP "wants to compensate [the U.S.] particularly the fishermen, the hotel owners, the people who have suffered," Mr. Cameron said. "It knows, that it is going to have to pay out a huge sum of money, but what it wants is some certainty, and what we all want is for this important company to be strong and stable."

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Senior Writer

Grant Robertson is an award-winning journalist who has been recognized for investigative journalism, sports writing and business reporting. More

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