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[casi] UN finds holes in Iraq-Kuwait border fence
First Published 2003-03-07, Last Updated 2003-03-07

UN finds holes in Iraq-Kuwait border fence

UN spokesman says US troops under suspicion, adding
gaps are big enough for large vehicle, including tank.

By Lachlan Carmichael - KUWAIT CITY

The United Nations was trying at the "highest level"
Friday to determine who was responsible for seven wide
gaps in the electric fence which marks Kuwait's border
with Iraq, a UN spokesman said.

Daljeet Bagga said the UN observers had spotted people
they suspected were US troops in the areas in the
demilitarised zone (DMZ) on the Kuwaiti side of the
border before the holes were noticed.

He could not confirm whether they had been involved in
the incidents, which amount to a violation of the DMZ.

The mystery visitors, who had short haircuts, wore
plainclothes and drove civilian cars and were at times
accompanied by Kuwaiti border guards who are allowed
in that area.

Bagga said he had no confirmation of a Kuwaiti
newspaper report that the Kuwaiti authorities were to
make a number of openings in the border fence to
permit the easier passage of US-led forces into Iraq
in the event of war.

"We were not informed" about any decision by anyone to
open the gaps, said Bagga, spokesman for the UN
Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) in Kuwait.

He said that a total of seven gaps, "big enough for
any vehicle to pass through," were made at various
points in the Kuwaiti part of the DMZ on the
217-kilometer (135-mile) border.

Later he said the gaps were big enough for a large
vehicle, including a tank.

Bagga said UN officials had informed UNIKOM
headquarters in New York as well as the Kuwaiti
authorities, but not spoken with the US and British
forces who have massed in the emirate ready for a
possible war.

US military spokesmen in Kuwait referred all press
queries to the Kuwaiti information ministry, which was
unavailable for comment on Friday, the Muslim day of

UN officials were also still awaiting an official
response from the Kuwaiti authorities, Bagga said.

"This will be handled at the highest level," he said.
"Nobody is allowed to come into the DMZ. "We are still
investigating. We have to know why this is being done
and who is doing it."

Bagga said the cuts had been noticed Wednesday,
continued Thursday but "it has now stopped. We didn't
see anything today."

A report in the Arab Times, an English-language daily
in Kuwait, quoting unnamed sources, said Kuwait was to
have started making a number of openings in the border
fence from Thursday.

It said the locations of the openings were specified
by the Kuwaiti army in coordination with US forces
deployed in the country.

Security sources who asked not to be named said it
appeared the visitors were surveying the area to
determine where the fence should be cut to allow a
path for military vehicles.

UNIKOM was set up to monitor the border in the wake of
the 1991 Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi
occupation, and to ensure no violations occur in the

A sign explicitly bans US forces from entering the

It is guarded by an electrical fence, three-meter
(10-foot) high sand berms, trenches and other barriers
as well as patrolled by the United Nations.

On the Kuwaiti side, there are total of 20 border
posts divided into four sectors, according to Kuwaiti

The border police guard against all infiltrators,
particularly alcohol and drug smugglers, as well as
those seeking safe haven and Iraqi intelligence
agents, they said.

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