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Sources: BP nears oil spill settlement

WILMINGTON, Del. -- BP Plc and lawyers for businesses and individuals suing over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are near a $14 billion accord to be funded with money set aside for out-of-court settlements, according to three people familiar with the talks.

BP would close its $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility and shift the remaining $14 billion to plaintiffs hurt by the disaster, the largest offshore spill in U.S. history, the people said.

Such a deal wouldn't include fines by the federal government that could reach $17.6 billion, lawsuits by state governments or claims between BP and partner companies involved in the disaster. BP shares rose almost 2 percent on news of the potential deal to their highest point in more than a year.

The April 2010 Macondo well blowout destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig, killed 11 workers and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil spewing into the gulf over three months. It spawned hundreds of suits against London-based BP, Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean Ltd., owner and operator of the doomed rig, and Houston-based Halliburton Co., provider of cementing services at the site.

"They could be about 90 or 95 percent done and now they have to go that last yard, which is always the toughest," Carl Tobias, who teaches mass-tort law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said of the proposed accord. "There could be an awful lot of money that is still in play or provisions that are hard to swallow for one side or the other."

The discussions between the plaintiffs and BP are nearing completion, said the people, who declined to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

The progress allowed BP to persuade a federal judge in New Orleans to delay by a week a multibillion-dollar liability trial over the spill that was to begin yesterday. They asked for extra time to allow talks to continue, the company and plaintiffs said.

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