Obama cites India, China growth for reforms in Middle East

"There's no reason why countries in the Middle East shouldn't have the same kind of growth rates that you're seeing in China and India," he said at White House news conference Friday on the energy situation in the wake of the unrest in the region.

"There's nothing inherent about the people in those countries that would prevent that," he said. "What's preventing it is the fact that for many decades you've seen a lack of opening up that allows you to take advantage of the global economy."

"It is in the interest of the entire region to reform itself-to reform itself both politically and economically so that the incredible talents of young people throughout that region can be tapped," Obama said.

"Each country is going to be different and it's going to ultimately be up to the people in those countries to determine the best form for them to seize this opportunity," he said. "But we should be on the side of those who want to seize this opportunity."

Also citing increased use of energy by emerging nations like India, China and Brazil as  contributing to the uncertainty in the oil markets, Obama said he is prepared to tap Americas' emergency oil reserve if needed.

"Right now, what we're seeing is not a shortage of supply; refineries are actually operating at fairly full capacity at the moment," he said.

"The problem is, is a great deal of uncertainty in the oil markets-part of it prompted by the fact that the economy is growing faster in some places than others, but you've got China and India and Brazil and other emerging nations that are using more and more energy as their economies advance," Obama said.

"We already saw that trend in 2008. Because of the worldwide recession, oil prices went back down. But to some degree, a lot of what's happening in prices is as a consequence of economic growth and countries and economies starting to use more oil," he said.

"Part of it, though, is also uncertainty in terms of what's happening in the Middle East," Obama said even as he assured the nation "that we are confident about our ability to fill any potential gaps in supply."

But "if we see significant disruptions or shifts in the market that are so disconcerting to people that we think a Strategic Petroleum Reserve release might be appropriate, we'll take that step," he said.

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