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Final plugging of well 'next month'

The final plugging of BP's blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well will begin next month, the US government has said.

The plan is to replace a failed piece of equipment called the blowout preventer first.

Then BP will finish drilling a relief well it can use to plug up the blown-out well with mud and cement from the bottom, a procedure known as a bottom kill.

Jeffrey Carter, an aide to the government's spill chief, said that if everything goes as planned, the final plugging will begin after the September 6 Labor Day holiday.

"That's the anticipation, yes," Mr Carter said. "So long as the conditions are met."

BP's well blew out when the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and setting off one of the worst offshore oil spills in history.

A cap has kept oil from flowing for more than a month, but that is just a temporary solution. Mud and cement was later pumped in through the top of the well, significantly reducing the pressure inside it.

But the government believes the bottom kill procedure is necessary to declare the well dead once and for all.

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