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LONDON Talks between BP and the U.S. government over a settlement for the 2010 oil spill have stalled because the U.S. is insisting that the British oil giant pay at least $ 18 billion, British newspaper the Sunday Times reported.

A settlement deal may not happen until early next year, the newspaper quoted sources close to the company as saying.

A settlement between $ 18 billion to $ 21 billion is near the level which BP would be required to pay should it be found grossly negligent under the Clean Water Act, said the paper.

BP, which declined to comment on the story, has always denied any liability for the United States' worst offshore environmental disaster.

Reports in July suggested that the U.S. was looking for a settlement of $ 25 billion.

The newspaper said that BP's board is split over whether to pay $ 18 billion or continue to push for a settlement at $ 15 billion, the level it is widely reported to be hoping to settle at.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Patrick Graham)

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