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British Forces Seize Oil Fields, Avert Potential Ecological Disaster

Britain's military chief says coalition forces have seized Iraq's key southern oil facilities, apparently averting what could have been a major ecological disaster.

British military chief of staff, Admiral Michael Boyce, said there has been good progress so far in the war in Iraq, especially in the southern oil fields. He said Iraq has not set nearly as many wells ablaze as officials had first believed.

"The latest information I've had is that only seven wellheads have been fired, as opposed to the some 30 or so we suspected might have been on fire today," he said, "and of course that is only seven out of the many hundreds that make up the oilfields."

Admiral Boyce also told a London news conference that U.S. Marines had overwhelmed the key southern city of Umm Qasr, and hundreds of Iraqi troops had been surrendering.

He said all key components of the southern oilfields are now under coalition control, and civilian experts will be brought in in a day or two to extinguish the wells that are on fire.