UPDATE 1-Obama: War fears driving gasoline prices higher

Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:45pm EDT

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(Adds Obama comments to Los Angeles TV station)

WASHINGTON, March 12 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that jitters about the prospect of a military conflict involving Iran were a main factor behind the recent rise in gasoline prices.

"The biggest driver of these high gas prices is speculation about possible war in the Middle East, which is why we've been trying to reduce some of the loose talk about war there," Obama told WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, Florida.

In a speech last week, Obama criticized what he called "loose talk of war" by some pundits and politicians concerning Iran, which the United States and other Western nations accuse of pursuing nuclear weapons.

The White House has launched a broad effort to defend Obama's energy policies as the Democratic president has faced election-year attacks from Republicans over high gasoline prices.

The price of gasoline at the pump has risen more than 12 cents to a national average of $3.81 a gallon in the past two weeks, according to the Lundberg Survey released on Sunday. The highest price, of $4.35 per gallon, was recorded in Los Angeles.

Polls show increasing voter dissatisfaction with his handling of the issue.

In remarks to KABC-TV in Los Angeles, Obama said the best way to lower gasoline prices over the long run is to reduce demand, and that his administration is looking at effects on speculation in the oil markets and whether service stations are engaging in price gouging.

"The truth of the matter is that there is no silver bullet. A lot of this is being set on the global stage because demand in India and China and other places are up," he added. "And part of it is also there's a lot of fears right now around the Middle East and is there a potential war there?" (Reporting By Caren Bohan and Samson Reiny in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jackie Frank and Paul Simao)

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