Monday: BP Begins Siphoning Oil From Leak; Iran Strikes Deal to Ship Uranium

BY jbreslow  May 17, 2010 at 9:10 AM EST

BP took a significant step forward Sunday in the effort to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, connecting a mile-long tube from a ship to the damaged pipeline some 5,000 feet below water.

Speaking on NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning, Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said the company is capturing approximately 1,000 barrels a day through the tube. “This is just containing the flow, later this week, hopefully before the end of the week, we’ll make our next attempt to actually fully stop the flow,” Suttles said.

Despite this weekend’s success, it may be too late to prevent the spill from reaching a major ocean current that could carry oil through the Florida Keys and up the East Coast. The Associated Press reports:

“Computer models show the oil may have already seeped into a powerful water stream known as the loop current, which could propel it into the Atlantic Ocean. A boat is being sent later this week to collect samples and learn more.”

In all, some 5,000 barrels of oil per day are believed to be leaking, according to BP. Other estimates, however, place the spill as high as 25,0000 barrels a day.

Questions about the magnitude of the leak are sure to come up later Monday as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies on Capitol Hill about the government’s response to the accident.

Iran Offers to Ship Uranium to Turkey

Iran has agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in a deal that could help ease the nation’s standoff with the West over its disputed nuclear program.

Under the agreement, brokered by Turkey and Brazil, Iran would ship 2,640 pounds of its enriched uranium to Turkey for safe storage. In return, Iran would receive up to 265 pounds of fuel rods enriched to a safer level from Russia and France.

Thai Dissident General Dies

The wave of violence that has shaken Thailand’s capital for five straight days showed no signs of easing Monday after a dissident general shot by an unknown sniper last week reportedly died.

The death of Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol, a leading figure in the nation’s Red Shirt protest movement, has heightened fears of continued violence in downtown Bangkok. Thirty-seven people have died in street clashes triggered by his shooting on Thursday.

The protesters, who are demanding new elections, faced a Monday deadline to leave a fortified compound in the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district. That deadline has come and gone. According to the BBC, “Soldiers have been shooting live rounds to keep protesters at a distance as one government minister said the operation to ‘seal the area’ would continue.”

GM Posts Big Gains; Euro Hits 4-Year Low

General Motors posted an $865 million gain in the first quarter, as savings earned through bankruptcy propelled the automaker to its first quarterly gain since 2007.

The gain compares with a $6 million loss during the same period last year. GM also reported a 40 percent surge in sales from a year ago to $31.5 million, as well as $1 billion in cash on hand.

GM’s strong showing aside, U.S. stocks appear headed for a tough day as fears over debt woes in Europe continue to rattle investors. Those jitters drove the euro as far down as $1.2235 during European trading on Monday, its lowest level against the dollar in more than four years.