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He described a deadly mix of booby traps and unexploded ordnance surrounding the blazing wells, making them difficult to extinguish. At one burning well, he said, the Iraqis had abandoned a brand-new, Russian-made T-72 tank. But the tank was surrounded with mines in a booby trap aimed at causing maximum damage to U.S. and British forces.

Efforts to extinguish the fires have been hampered by the continuing resistance of small bands of Iraqi fighters. A U.S. firm, Boots and Coots, was supposed to enter Iraq on Sunday to fight the fires, but it was forced to cancel its plans because the oil field — previously considered to be secure — was the scene of a firefight between British forces and Iraqi fighters on the weekend. Now the Houston-based company is expected to begin its work later this week.

It will take weeks to extinguish the Rumaila fires. Mr. Asad's firefighting team extinguished a blaze on Monday at an oil well near the Iraq-Kuwaiti border. But three more fires are raging in the same area, and others can be seen in the distance, he said.

Kuwaiti firefighters said they found evidence that the Iraqis had tried to sabotage other oil wells, too, but failed to blow them up. At several wells they found sandbags and black wires snaking away from the wells, which appeared to be rigged to detonate.

One of the biggest problems is to find enough water to extinguish the fires. In 1991, when retreating Iraqi soldiers ignited blazes at 700 oil wells in Kuwait, firefighters were able to pump water from the Persian Gulf. But this time the fires are deeper in the desert, as far as 30 kilometres from the Kuwaiti border.

The Rumaila oil field is considered crucial to the future of the Iraqi economy. U.S. and British forces have made a major effort to secure Iraq's 1,685 oil wells in the early stages of the war.



EU Plan Clears Barriers to Environmental Technology

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 26, 2003 (ENS) - A new initiative to boost the  impact of environmental technologies on the environment, economy,  employment, natural resources and, quality of life was set forth today in a  communication from the European Commission, which makes proposals for all  new European Union legislation.

The final Action Plan for Environmental Technologies will be adopted towards the end of this year, the Commission says, and even before the legislation is drafted, stakeholders are invited to contribute their ideas on how barriers to the adoption of environment friendly technologies can be removed.

The UK company Ciba Specialty Chemicals has introduced a new inverse emulsion flocculant for processing sewage sludge in high  tech dewatering systems. The system is approved by government

                     environmental protection agencies in the USA and Europe. (Photo courtesy Ciba)

                     The Commission is opening a seven week consultation period so that stakeholders in the research and business communities, governments and nongovernmental organizations can submit comments assessing the barriers holding environmental technologies out of the market and jointly develop concrete proposals. These barriers include red  tape, higher costs and public attitudes.

                     Four broad target areas are outlined by the Commission for discussion - climate change, soil protection, sustainable production and consumption, and water.

                     Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said, "We already know that there are environmental technologies unable to penetrate the market because of a number of technical, economic, regulatory and social barriers. I want the experts in the development, production and use of environmental technologies to share with us their experience about how we can overcome  these

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