NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A lawyer for BP (NYSE:BP) entered a not-guilty plea for the company as it was arraigned on charges stemming from a deadly 2010 rig explosion and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The plea Tuesday in federal court was a procedural move paving the way for a later guilty plea. It doesn't signal that BP is backing away from its plea agreement, company and government lawyers said.

BP announced earlier this month that it will plead guilty to manslaughter, obstruction of Congress and other charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties to resolve a federal probe of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Attorneys for BP and the Justice Department are scheduled to meet Dec. 11 with a federal judge to discuss a date for pleading guilty.

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