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May 26, 2010 at 8:43 AM
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BP looks at top kill to plug oil leak

VENICE, La., May 26 (UPI) -- BP officials said they could decide Wednesday whether to go ahead with a "top kill" method to try to cap an oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Diagnostic tests were under way on the sunken rig to determine whether the top kill procedure can be successfully executed, BP said in a news release. The "top kill" method involves injecting heavy drilling fluids into the well to stem the flow of oil and gas and ultimately kill the well.

Once the tests are complete, "a decision will be made on the execution of the top kill procedure itself," the release said.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil have been spewing into the gulf since the oil rig exploded April 20 and sank. Eleven rig workers died.

BP said the top-kill process could take up to two days, but wouldn't predict how long it would be before proving whether the operation was successful.

The oil company said plans and equipment were in place to combine the top kill process with the pressurized injection of material into the blowout preventer to prevent or limit the oil's flow.

If the top kill fails, BP said it would deploy a containment box that would be connected to the Discoverer Enterprise drillship to capture most of the oil flowing from the well.

Work on the drilling two relief wells, begun earlier in May, continues, BP said. Each well is estimated to take about three months to complete.

The White House said President Barack Obama will return to Louisiana Friday for another survey of the spill's damage.

Panel OKs Muslim center at Ground Zero

NEW YORK, May 26 (UPI) -- A proposal for a Muslim community center near the spot where New York's World Trade Center stood has won the support of a Manhattan community board.

After a raucous hearing Tuesday evening, Community Board No. 1 voted 29-1 in favor of the move with 10 abstentions, The New York Times reports.

He board's vote is seen as an important barometer of community sentiment even though it was only an advisory one, the newspaper says.

More than 100 people testified before the panel voted. Some carried pictures of family members who were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center.

"The pain never goes away," C. Lee Hanson, 77, told the board. Hanson's son Peter died in the attack.

Hanson said building a tribute to Islam so close to the World Trade Center would be insensitive.

Others told the board the center would be a monument to tolerance.

Clinton urges international response

SEOUL, May 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the international community has a "duty" to respond to the sinking of a South Korean ship apparently by the North.

Arriving in South Korea Wednesday from China, Clinton issued her appeal as relations between the two Koreas plunged further with the North severing all ties with the South.

An international team of investigators last week said North Korea was responsible for the March 26 sinking of the South Korean war ship Cheonan in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors. The North has denied any involvement.

"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," Clinton told reporters in Seoul.

Separately, South Korea Wednesday vowed to press on with retaliatory actions against the North, Yonhap news agency reported quoting Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung.

"Even though the North should apologize and prosecute those responsible, it has again taken measures undermining inter-Korean relations," Chun said. "The South will deal with these North Korean threats unwaveringly and sternly."

Prior to Clinton's arrival, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced a number of measures against the North including the suspension of all trade.

Yonhap reported in Beijing, Clinton tried unsuccessfully to convince Chinese leaders to forge a united, tough response against the North.

Flooding in Poland spreads beyond borders

WARSAW, Poland, May 26 (UPI) -- Severe flooding in Poland, already responsible for the deaths of 15 people, now is threatening neighboring countries, officials said.

The flooding, caused by heavy rains last week, pushed Polish rivers to their highest levels in more than 100 years and caused an estimated $576 million in damage, Sky News reported Wednesday.

Weather forecasters said rain and storms would affect Poland until the middle of the week, increasing the risk of flooding in Germany as the systems push north along the Vistula and Oder rivers.

About 4,000 people have been evacuated along the Vistula's path, northwest of Warsaw, the British news outlet said.

In eastern Germany, where the Oder River runs along the German-Polish border, water levels have started to rise, prompting flood warnings in Ratzdorf and Eisenhuttenstadt, officials said.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has pledged more than $576 million in aid for the tens of thousands of people left homeless in southern and central Poland because of the flood. Tusk said the funds would come from a Polish government reserve meant to co-finance European Union projects.

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