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'Iraq torches 30 oil wells'

As many as 30 oil wells in Iraq have been set on fire by Iraqi forces, said Kuwaiti officials.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 21:36 IST

As many as 30 oil wells in Iraq have deliberately been set on fire by Iraqi forces in the south of the country, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said on BBC television.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti environment officials also said that Iraqi forces had set fire to oil wells in southern Iraq, the official KUNA news agency reported.

The head of the national environmental agency, Mohamed al-Sarawi, told KUNA that Iraqi troops had set the wells ablaze but no further details were immediately available about the number of burning wells.

A dark and dirty haze has been hanging over Kuwait City, and a Kuwaiti military officer who did not wish to be named said Thursday that Iraq had torched several wells after the United States began military strikes.

"The black cloud seen covering the skies of Kuwait is caused by the burning of oil wells in southern Iraq, set ablaze by Iraqi forces," Sarawi said.

A US military spokeswoman in Kuwait was not able to confirm wells were burning.

In the run-up to the war, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein insisted that he would not order his forces to burn the wells, as he did in the first Gulf war in 1991.

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 14:22 IST