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Aid held up by mine fears

The RFA Sir Galahad was held up in trying to deliver its cargo of aid
The RFA Sir Galahad was held up in trying to deliver its cargo of aid

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Aid from Kuwait bound for Basra held up until fighting subsides. CNN's Daryn Kagan reports (March 26)
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Coalition minesweepers have secured waters around the strategic southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. (March 26)
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UMM QASR, Iraq (CNN) -- A British ship carrying humanitarian aid that was due to arrive Thursday at the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr has been delayed because of concerns about mines.

Officials had thought the waterway, where mine-clearing ships are stationed, was safe for the arrival of more than 200 tons of supplies carried aboard Britain's Sir Galahad, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel.

The Kuwaiti and British governments donated the aid, which includes bulk food like rice, lentils and chick peas; flour; bottled water; and World Health Organization medical packets.

The first convoy of humanitarian-relief trucks were allowed into Iraq from Kuwait Wednesday. (Full Story)

Air Marshall Brian Burridge, who commands British forces in the Persian Gulf, said British mine hunters found and detonated two mines Wednesday night outside the swept shipping channel in the waterway leading into Umm Qasr from the Persian Gulf.

"This proves beyond a doubt that Saddam's regime has attempted to stop essential stores and humanitarian supplies from being delivered to his own people," Burridge said, referring to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"This also shows his disregard for civilian shipping which may have encountered these mines," he told reporters.

CNN Correspondent Becky Diamond, who is on a ship coordinating the mine-sweeping operations in the waterway, said coalition forces found an Iraqi tugboat and barge in the area last week carrying 86 mines. None exploded, but the discovery raised concerns. More mines were found on a sunken tugboat.

Bad weather has caused poor visibility and hampered the work of the mine sweepers, who are clearing a channel in the waterway as wide as 100 meters, she said.

Mine hunters are searching for two kinds of mines -- those that float and those that sit on the ocean floor.

Burridge said Royal Navy divers are leading the massive mine-clearance operation, and they are being aided by divers from the Royal Australian Navy.

Also aiding operations were dolphins. British Marines were patrolling and clearing areas one by one, while dolphins, divers and explosive experts from three countries struggled to give the port and its waters a clean bill of health. (Dolphins hunt mines)

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