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UN Pulls Observers on Kuwait Border - 2003-03-17


The United Nations has withdrawn its observers stationed along Kuwait's border with Iraq, amid signs that a U.S.-led war could begin soon.

The United Nations says it has withdrawn most of the 1,300 people working for the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, known as UNIKOM. The 15-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone straddles the 240-kilometer-long border between the two countries, which U.S. and British troops would have to cross in an invasion of Iraq.

A spokesman for UNIKOM says the U.N. observers and workers traveled in a convoy to Kuwait City, where they could be ordered out of the country at any time. UNIKOM began moving non-essential personnel out of the demilitarized zone more than a week ago, as the threat of a U.S.-led war in Iraq began mounting.

The U.S. Army has reportedly moved hundreds of tanks and other heavy armored vehicles close to the border.

The U.N. Security Council created the border force in 1991 to monitor the area after a U.S. led military coalition drove the occupying Iraqi army out of Kuwait. UNIKOM has 195 military observers from the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain. It also has a military support staff made up of more than 770 Bangladeshis

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