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Oil Containment Dome Being Lowered Over Gulf Leak Site

Officials with the oil company BP say a large containment chamber designed to cap a leaking underwater oil well is now suspended over the target site in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP officials say the device has been lowered close to the leaking well, 1,500 meters below the surface of the gulf. They expect the dome to be in place over the main leak by the end of the day Friday.

The officials say a device of this type has never been used at this depth and they are offering no guarantees it will work. But if all goes well, they hope the dome could be ready by next week to funnel oil to a boat on the gulf's surface.

The damaged oil well has been spilling hundreds of thousands of liters per day, since an oil rig exploded and sank two weeks ago.

Oil reached barrier islands off southern Louisiana's coast Thursday, where there are many fragile animal habitats.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters Thursday there would be no new U.S. offshore drilling permits issued until a federal investigation into the oil spill is completed May 28. He also said BP and its partners made "some very major mistakes," and that the company's "life is on the line."

Salazar did not elaborate on those comments.

Among BP's other efforts to contain the spill, the company is drilling a relief well to pump the leaking reservoir. But BP says the well will take about three months to prepare.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.