A commercial contractor is building gates in a fence separating Kuwait from Iraq, a barrier U.S. and British forces would have to cross if they invaded Iraq from the Persian Gulf state, U.N. investigators reported Friday.
A U.N. mission monitoring the 12-year-old demilitarized border zone said the building of the gates -- wide enough to accommodate a tank -- follows recent sightings of U.S. soldiers on the Kuwaiti side of the zone.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council received a report alleging numerous violations of the demilitarized zone in recent days. The report attributed at least some of the violations to U.S. soldiers, U.N. officials said.
According to the report, prepared by U.N. investigators, "a commercial contractor from South Africa interviewed by ... investigators at the site of one of the gaps claimed that he was working under a contract issued by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior and the contract was to create 35 gaps in the electrical fence before 15 March 2003."
A U.S. military spokesman in Kuwait had no immediate comment. Kuwaiti officials could not immediately be reached.
The demilitarized area, stretching six miles into Iraq and three miles into Kuwait, is supposed to be entered only by U.N. personnel or by Kuwaiti and Iraqi border guards, carrying only handguns, in their respective zones.
In Kuwait, U.N. mission spokesman Daljeet Bagga said the work was being carried out by civilians. Bagga said it was too early to say whether the gaps in the fence constituted a violation of the DMZ. No U.S. personnel had crossed over to Iraq, he said.
The fence is made of wire mesh and coils of electrified razor wire that run the entire length of the 125-mile border on the Kuwaiti side.
Western officials in Kuwait have said that the fence would be dismantled in several places to allow tanks and armored vehicles to push north into Iraq in the event of a war.