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The BP oil leak could be completely contained as early as Monday if a new, tighter cap can be fitted over the blown-out well, the government official in charge of the crisis said Friday in some of the most encouraging news to come out of the Gulf in the 2 1/2 months since the disaster struck.

If the project planned to begin this weekend is successful, it would simply mean no more oil would escape to foul the Gulf of Mexico. The well would still be busted and leaking — workers would just funnel what comes out of it to tankers at the surface. The hope for a permanent solution remains with two relief wells intended to plug it completely far beneath the seafloor.

“I use the word ‘contained,'” said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. “‘Stop’ is when we put the plug in down below.”

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