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IRAQ WAR: Battle for hearts and minds begins.

The battle for the 'hearts and minds' of the Iraqi population began yesterday when American and British troops handed out fresh water to the civilian population of Umm Qasr, the first Iraqi city taken by Allied troops.

A US military Humvee vehicle was reconfigured from its weapons-carrying role when a public address system was fitted to its roof to allow an Arabspeaking American soldier to announce the arrival of the water. 'Fresh water, fresh water,' the crackling voice said as two civilian tankers full of Kuwaiti potable water parked in one of the town's dusty streets.

'Please take as much as you can in twenty minutes before we move to another location.'

Small groups of people emerged from their homes in Umm Qasr and within a few minutes a scrum had formed as they eagerly collected water in bottles, jars and any waterproof container they could find.

'We have had no water and no power for two days now,' Karim Abidjerad said.

'We need it urgently, please tell them to bring more water tomorrow.'

But while the strategy of the allied troops is to try to win the trust of the local Iraqis, the American troops did not seemed to fully embrace the idea of reassuring the local population that the war was fully over.

US soldiers kept machine guns trained on the crowds and appeared nervous and twitchy.

CAPTION(S):

Iraqis run behind a British army truck as water is handed out in the southern Iraq town of Umm Qasr
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 27, 2003
Words:251
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