GULFPORT, Miss. — As President Barack Obama set out on a three-state tour of the oil-tainted Gulf Coast today, the White House said BP appears willing to set up the kind of independent victims’ compensation fund that the president is demanding.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton, speaking to reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One to the Gulf, said that the White House and BP are “working out the particulars,” such as the amount of the fund and how it will be administered. Burton said the account would be run by an independent third-party entity and would run into “the billions of dollars,” though he wouldn’t give a specific amount.

“We’re confident that this is a critical way in which we’re going to be able to help individuals and businesses in the Gulf area become whole again,” Burton said.

BP’s board was meeting today in London to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into escrow until the company’s liabilities from the spill are known. BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams had said earlier that the company was aware of the White House’s demand for a compensation fund, but declined to comment further.

The White House had said that Obama was prepared to force BP, if necessary, to set up the fund. Burton said today that Obama aides are “confident we have the legal authority” to do that.