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Written by: Staff

HOUSTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) BP Plc's global refining chief knew about safety problems at the company's giant Texas refinery before an explosion killed 15 workers there in March 2005, broadcast company CBS Corp. said on Thursday.

CBS said in a press release that internal documents obtained for a report on its TV newsmagazine ''60 Minutes'' showed John Manzoni, BP's chief executive of refining and a company director, was warned repeatedly about safety problems at the Texas City, Texas, refinery prior to the March 23, 2005 blast.

A BP spokesman was not available to discuss the CBS statement.

Manzoni reports directly to BP Group Chief Executive John Browne, who has been ordered to give a deposition in one of the lawsuits against BP arising from the explosion.

CBS said ''60 Minutes'' is scheduled to broadcast the BP report on Sunday.

Manzoni has already been embarrassed by an e-mail he had to read during a deposition in an explosion court case. In the e-mail, Manzoni complained of losing a day of vacation to visit the refinery shortly after the blast.

Investigators for the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board probing the blast have released documents showing BP officials knew of safety problems at the refinery prior to the 2005 explosion.

Since the blast at the Texas City refinery, which is among the largest in the United States, BP has faced repeated investigations about management of its plants and pipelines from regulators and the U.S. Congress.

BP was slapped with a $21.4-million fine from the U.S.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations at the refinery, and the company recently said it was adding $400 million to the $1.2 billion set aside to settle lawsuits from the explosion.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the explosion for possible criminal violations.

BP has settled hundreds of civil claims, but the first lawsuit is scheduled to go on trial in November.

Reuters DKS VP0240

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