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“That’s the anticipation, yes,” Mr. Carter said, “so long as the conditions are met.”

He said the decision was made overnight, just hours after Adm. Allen told reporters he wasn’t giving a time line.

Mr. Carter said he did not know why things came together so quickly or why it will take nearly three more weeks to begin the bottom kill.

Adm. Allen previously said replacing the blowout preventer was the quicker of the two options engineers were considering to relieve pressure that may build up when the relief well intersects the blown-out well. The other was to design a mechanism to attach to the current equipment.

A cap has kept oil from flowing from the blown-out well for more than a month, but that’s just a temporary solution. Mud and cement later was pumped in through the top of the well, significantly reducing the pressure inside it.

The government believes the bottom-kill procedure is necessary to declare the well dead once and for all.

Harry R. Weber reported from New Orleans.