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President Bush today blocked new offshore oil and gas drilling off the Florida and California coasts by indefinitely postponing the sale of leases on three development sites.

"The combined effect of these decisions is that the coast of southwest Florida and more than 99 percent of the California coast will be off-limits to oil and gas leasing and development until after the year 2000," Bush said in a written statement.

Bush, a one-time Texas oilman involved in offshore drilling operations, said he decided on the politically sensitive move because "further steps to protect the environment are needed."

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