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In News Conference, Obama Addresses Disaster in Japan, Oil Prices, Libya

In a news conference Friday afternoon, President Obama called the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan a “catastrophic disaster,” adding that images of the aftermath have been “heartbreaking.”

The president said he spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan early Friday morning and conveyed “deepest condolences” to the victims. He said that the United States will send “whatever assistance is needed.”

“Today’s events remind us just how fragile life can be,” he said.

President Obama also addressed the spike in oil prices, saying that “families feel the pinch every time they fill up the tank” and that “for Americans already facing tough times it’s an added burden.”

The president said that in response to the crisis in Libya, “other oil-producing nations have committed to filling any gaps” and that “we are prepared to tap the significant stockpile of oil” if needed, using the strategic oil reserves.

“The hard truth is that as long as our economy depends on foreign oil, we’ll always be subject to price spikes,” President Obama said. He also pointed to efforts at creating alternative energy sources and said innovation would decrease the need for oil and create additional jobs. Because the United States only controls only 2 percent of the world’s oil, he said offshore drilling and other options would be examined.

As for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s recent gains over rebels, President Obama said the crisis is “going to require some difficult judgment calls” and that Gadhafi will be held accountable for civilian deaths. Of threats to hunt opposition members door-to-door, he said “that implied a sort of lack of restraint and ruthlessness that I think raises our antennae.”

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