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NEW ORLEANS – BP officials say the role of a relief well long considered the only sure-fire way to kill the Gulf oil leak is now unclear.

BP PLC Senior Vice President Kent Wells said Monday that engineers may pump cement directly into the busted well via a surface ship. The company had already said it might do that instead of wait for the relief well to be completed this month.

But BP has never before indicated it might forgo use of the relief well altogether in direct attemps to plug the leak.

Officials hoped to begin testing Monday evening in an effort to plug the well from the top in what’s called a “static kill.” It was hoped the relief well would eventually do the same from the bottom.

But BP spokesman Daren Beaudo says “precisely what the relief wells will do remains to be seen.”

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