ABU DHABI Ñ The United States has removed portions of the fence on Kuwait's border with Iraq in the final prelude to an invasion by U.S. ground forces.
The U.S. Central Command cut down parts of a border fence that
marks the demilitarized border zone between Iraq and Kuwait last week, Western diplomatic sources said. U.S. Marine units and military vehicles have already entered Iraqi territory, the sources said.
Diplomats said the fence was cut to allow U.S. tanks and armored
vehicles to cross into Iraq. The fence was cut in seven
places along the 210 kilometer border.
Neither Kuwait nor the United States has confirmed the action, but the United Nations, which monitors the demilitarized zone,
reported the fence removal over the weekend.
UN officials have also reported the movement of U.S. marine units and
military vehicles across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq. They said the
infiltrations have accelerated over the last week.
The diplomatic sources cited a March 17 British and U.S. deadline for
Iraq to answer questions on its weapons of mass destruction programs. They
said war could break out immediately after that deadline.
The openings in the fence were made beginning on March 5 and ending Saturday, the sources said.
The officials said UN military observers were being withdrawn from the
Iraq-Kuwait border in fear of an imminent war. Daljeet Bagga of the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer
Mission said the agency has also ended air and sea
patrols of the demilitarized zone.