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Jul 8, 2010 7:09 PM

Paul: Obama Jabs At BP Could Harm Spill Cleanup

LOUISVILLE. (AP) - Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul suggested Thursday that harsh criticism of BP by President Barack Obama's administration could contribute to the oil giant's demise and harm its ability to pay for cleanup of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The comments came in response to blistering criticism by Democratic opponent Jack Conway at their first appearance together. Conway blasted Paul for saying in late May that Obama's stance toward BP was un-American and anti-business. Those and other comments by Paul led to a backlash at the time that caused the Republican to retreat from the national scene for a couple of weeks.

Paul said Thursday that BP should pay for the Gulf cleanup, but that Obama administration's sharp rhetoric could help imperil the company.

"I don't want them to go out of business when they can't pay for the mess, and that's what that kind of rhetoric could do," he said. "I want BP to be in business so it can afford to pay for the mess."

BP said this week it has spent $3.12 billion so far in response to the spill, including attempting to contain oil, paying claims and reimbursing the U.S. and local governments. By comparison, BP posted $17 billion in profit from its vast operations around the globe last year.

Conway, who has run a low-key campaign so far, came out blasting Paul for the past comments on BP and for expressing misgivings about applying a portion of the Civil Rights Act to private businesses.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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