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BP pledges to pay for spill's cleanup, damages

BP PLC gave some assurance yesterday to shrimpers, oil workers and scores of others that they will be paid for damage and injuries from the explosion of a drilling rig and the resulting massive oil spill in the Gulf.

A fact sheet on the company website says BP takes responsibility for cleaning up the spill and will pay compensation for "legitimate and objectively verifiable" claims for property damage, personal injury and commercial losses.

President Barack Obama and several attorneys general have asked the company to explain what exactly that means.

BP spokesman David Nicholas said the company doesn't know how much the cleanup will cost and hasn't decided how to pay for it.

In Monday's White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether the White House believes BP has done a good job in cleaning up the leak.

"We are going to, every day, evaluate what has to happen," Gibbs said. "And if it's not being done, we'll make sure it is."

The president has not spoken to any BP officials directly since the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico began, Gibbs said.

Gibbs rejected suggestions that BP has been dishonest with the White House during the administration's early response to the oil leak.

Asked to explain the administration's choice of metaphor - putting a boot on BP's throat - Gibbs suggested another: "Hold your feet to the fire."

BP chief executive Tony Hayward said yesterday that the equipment that failed and led to the spill belonged to owner Transocean Ltd., not BP, which operated the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Guy Cantwell, a Transocean spokesman, said the company was waiting for all the facts before drawing conclusions.

A board investigating the explosion and oil leak plans to hold its first public hearing in roughly two weeks. The cause of the April 20 explosion, which killed 11 workers, has not been determined.

Meanwhile, BP officials are waiting for results on how effective it was using underwater robots to shoot chemicals directly into the leaking well, which are supposed to break down the oil and keep it from reaching the surface.

Obama toured the region Sunday, deflecting criticism that his administration was too slow to respond and did too little to stave off the catastrophe. The administration has also strongly defended any comparison to the slow response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

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