Efforts to check looting in Basra

LONDON APRIL 9. The British forces in Basra have appealed to local police officials to prevent the continuing looting on the streets of Iraq's second largest city.

A spokesman for the British forces, Col. Chris Vernon, said the local police force would be used as much as possible to re-establish law and order in Basra.

The coalition forces have so far not been able to control the lawlessness and many of the city's 1.3 million residents are angry over lack of water and breakdown of law and order.

British military officials maintained that their effort was mainly to carry out assessments of hospitals, government buildings and schools.

"So far, what we've found is a lot of looting going on. We're using loudspeakers to tell people not to loot because it makes it worse for everyone," Major Norrie Robertson said.

He said over the next few days, British forces would move to secure public facilities since "we're turning the focus from fighting to helping the community.''

Col Vernon said from Kuwait that a local tribal leader, whom he identified only as ``a sheikh'', was expected to take over administration within the Basra province.

He said the sheikh, who has not been identified as yet, met British divisional commanders and has been given the responsibility for setting up an administrative committee representing other groups in the region.

``This person approached us, we met with him last night...We have ascertained that he is worthwhile, credible, has authority in the local area particularly with the tribal chiefs,'' he said.