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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 04:30 GMT
Kuwait fence 'cut for war'

By Greg Barrow
BBC UN correspondent

An internal United Nations document obtained by the BBC says UN observers working in the border area between Iraq and Kuwait have discovered three large gaps cut in an electric fence that separates the two countries.

According to the observers, the gaps in the fence were discovered earlier this month, shortly after plain-clothed US marines were seen driving through the demilitarised zone between Iraq and Kuwait in unmarked vehicles.

The UN report concludes that the three gaps in the electric fence are positioned on what is a likely access for any military advance through the demilitarised zone.

Peacekeepers reported numerous violations [since 4 March] by personnel in civilian clothes in 4x4 vehicles, at least some of whom were armed and identified themselves as US Marines
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard

The UN document describes an unauthorised incursion into the sensitive demilitarised zone between Iraq and Kuwait earlier this week.

UN observers monitoring the area discovered 15 men wearing civilian clothes and travelling in unmarked cars.

When approached by UN observers, they said they were US marines and had permission from the Kuwaiti authorities to work in the area.

According to the document, all had military haircuts and three were carrying pistols in shoulder holsters.

The UN report says that shortly after the incursion was discovered, three large gaps were found in the electric fence that marks the border between Iraq and Kuwait.

The report says that where the fence had been breached, the cabling had been laid beneath the ground, presumably to preserve the continuity of the electric charge in the fence.

It says all three gaps are identical in size, about 25 metres wide, and positioned on what the UN observer mission in Kuwait judges is a likely access for any military advance through the demilitarised zone.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Baghdad
"The military preparations are now in the almost final phase"

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