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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 11:06 GMT
UK forces declare port 'open'
UK Marines on patrol in Umm Qasr
British troops say the streets of Umm Qasr are now quiet

British troops say the key southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr - where UK and United States forces have been meeting Iraqi resistance - is now "safe and open".

There has been no serious outbreaks of shooting in the pay day in Umm Qasr, British sources said on Tuesday.

The first aid ship could arrive at the port within 48 hours, said Brigadier Jim Dutton, commander of the British Royal Marines 3rd Commando Brigade, based in Plymouth.

UK and US forces came under strong attack when they entered the port on Friday, having expected to meet with little resistance.

Seals at work

Umm Qasr, which lies in the extreme south of Iraq, is the country's main seaport.

As such it has been seen as a priority that coalition forces secure it, if they are to effectively distribute humanitarian aid to the country.

The BBC's Adam Mynott says the reduced resistance in the past 24 hours has given troops time to make the waters off the new and old ports in the town safe.

Divers from Britain, Australia and America have been clearing mines from the water and later on in the day will be assisted by seals and dolphins, especially trained for the task.

The BBC's Allan Little
"[Troops] have to get these derelict docks ready to receive humanitarian aid"

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