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British aid ship docks in Iraq

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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Coalition minesweepers have secured waters around the strategic southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. (March 26)
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UMM QASR, Iraq (CNN) -- Britain's Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, carrying nearly 200 tons of humanitarian supplies, has arrived at the port of Umm Qasr on Friday, a day after concerns about underwater mines delayed its arrival.

The ship arrived in the port at 3:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) Friday. Television pictures showed supplies being off-loaded almost immediately after it docked.

The ship began moving Friday morning and crossed into the Khwar Abd Allah waterway about 10 a.m. (0700 ET).

It arrived with a convoy, led by a British minesweeper, along with three other coalition patrol boats, security rafts and helicopters.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour noted that RFA Sir Galahad's arrival was not just about bringing humanitarian aid to Iraq.

The ship's arrival, she said, "is a very powerful political and psychological tool that's being used."

Amanpour reported that coalition forces wanted to get the aid to the people of Umm Qasr, several towns along the Iraqi border and eventually up to Basra.

She said the "strategic aim" is to win the confidence and trust of the civilian population. The plan is to get the people to separate from the political leadership and give them space to "rise up" against the leadership.

British military spokesman Group Capt. Al Lockwood described the arrival of RFA Sir Galahad as a "trial run to make sure everything's in place."

However, a crew member aboard the minesweeper Kanimbla said the ship's arrival could be a public relations bonanza or nightmare, depending on the success of minesweeping operations.

The city of Umm Qasr is secure, Lockwood told CNN's Tom Mintier at Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

"Royal Marines are patrolling the streets. There's the occasional bit of opposition, but they're taking care of that," he said. "The waterway is continually being swept to make sure there are no mines."

He said several more humanitarian aid ships are waiting to enter the port.

Sir Galahad docked at Umm Qasr

Thursday, the U.S., Australian and British divers aboard the Kanimbla found four "mine-like" objects in the strategic waterway and detonated them.

CNN's Frank Buckley, who is aboard the USS Constellation, reported military officials as saying that the "mine-like" objects appeared to be "bottom mines."

The officials also told Buckley that when the charges were detonated, there were "sympathetic detonations" indicating they were in fact mines.

Divers Thursday managed to clear a small pathway between 30 and 100 meters wide up the Khwar Abd Allah waterway, but the divers continued to search for possible waterborne mines Friday.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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