Near the Kuwait-Iraq border, March 27: British and American forces have taken over UN establishments on either side of the Kuwait-Iraq border from where they are now conducting and planning combat operations.
Since the last Persian Gulf war, the Kuwait-Iraq border had been declared a demilitarised zone that was and, technically still is, monitored by the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (Unikom).
The UN may be the world’s peacekeeping body, but its establishments on the border, at least, have been turned into centres for making war.
The Unikom’s headquarters in Umm Qasr and a sector headquarter on the Kuwaiti side at Camp Khor has been occupied by British army personnel.
The Kuwait-Iraq border, about 200 km long, is divided into three sectors — northern, southern and maritime. The Unikom’s headquarters and the maritime sector office are used by the British forces.
Further to the west of Umm Qasr and up north, on the main Kuwait-Baghdad Route 80 at Abdaly, the northern sector headquarters have been taken over by an American component of the coalition land forces.
Civilian staff of the Unikom who visited their maritime sector headquarters yesterday, could enter their own office with only with permission from the British army. The staff had gone to pick up some of the surveillance equipment the observers had left behind when they fully withdrew on March 19, hours before the war began.
| A British commando at Umm Qasr. (AFP)
The Unikom is staffed by observers from 31 countries and it reports directly to the Security Council. Its mandate is currently suspended since the demilitarised zone is now fully “militarised”.
Just across the border, in Umm Qasr, preparations have begun to “reconstruct” the port after clearing it of sea mines. The Umm Qasr port has two docks — called old and new and a separate oil terminal.
Humanitarian aid to Umm Qasr on the HMS Sir Galahad that was due here today is now likely to reach tomorrow.
Sources said an American company has already been shortlisted for the contract to reconstruct Umm Qasr, Iraq’s only deep water port.