MANAMA, Bahrain — The United States and several Western European countries have devised a plan to split up minesweeping duties in the Persian Gulf, sources say.
According to two separate diplomatic sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the region has been tentatively carved up as follows for minesweeping:
-- The United States takes the northern half of the gulf, from Bahrain to Kuwait, an area where U.S. sources say a significant number of mines have been laid.
-- The Netherlands, Belgium and possibly Italy sweep the central gulf, east and south of the Qatar Peninsula.
-- Britain gets the southern gulf and Strait of Hormuz. No mines have been reported in the strait, the entrance to the gulf, but mine fields are believed to exist in the southern gulf.
-- France sweeps in the Gulf of Oman just outside the strait. Mines in the area damaged an American-owned supertanker in August and sank a small supply vessel, killing six men.
Here is a breakdown of the Western nations' forces:
--United States: The amphibious assault ship Guadalcanal has eight minesweeping helicopters. Four 57-foot wooden-hull coastal minesweepers are based on the amphibious transport ship Raleigh. Six oceangoing minesweepers are due to join the U.S. force soon.
--Britain: Mine-warfare vessels Bichester, Hurworth, Brecon and Brocklesby (615 tons) arrived Monday outside the Strait of Hormuz. They were accompanied by Abdiel (1,500 tons), a mine countermeasures support vessel.
--France: Minesweepers Garigliano, Cantho and Vinh-Long (780 tons) are patrolling just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
--Italy: Minesweepers Vieste, Milazzo and Sapri (485 tons) are en route to the gulf.
--Netherlands: Mine hunters Hellevoetsluis and Maassluis (510 tons) are en route to the gulf.
--Belgium: Wooden-hulled minesweepers Bovesse and Breydel set sail for the gulf on Monday.
In addition, the Soviet Union has three 650-ton minesweepers in the area, Iran has two U.S.-made coastal minesweepers and Iraq has five Soviet-made oceangoing minesweepers.