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Supplies running low at embassy

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is down to a three- to four-week supply of canned tuna fish and rice, and is running low on generator fuel to power its only satellite telephone link with Washington, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The prospect that Ambassador W. Nathaniel Howell III, his deputy Barbara K. Bodine, and 25 others might have to lower the American flag in Kuwait by Thanksgiving led the Bush administration to push for a United Nations Security Council resolution, approved Monday, demanding the humanitarian resupply of foreign embassies.

A White House official said President Bush, who charged Wednesday that Iraq was "starving" the embassy personnel in Kuwait, did not mean that the 27 people in the embassy were in imminent danger of starvation. Bush was referring only to their "dwindling food supplies," the official said.

A State Department official said there were "no serious health problems" among the embassy holdouts and that they have adequate supplies of water for drinking and bathing. The bathing water, which was scarce in the first two months, is now available from a shallow well the group dug behind the ambassador's residence, one of a number of buildings inside the walled seaside compound.

The State Department has a special phone line to the embassy. The embassy also has maintained local telephone contact, "for short conversations, since the lines are tapped" with other Americans outside the compound who are still in hiding from Iraqi forces in Kuwait, said Margie Howell, wife of the ambassador.

The embassy's food supply, which was relatively meager when the invasion struck, was restocked during the weeks of chaos before Iraq targeted foreign embassies for closure and blocked exit from the compound.

The diplomats continue their vegetable gardening to supplement their diet, which has consisted recently of tuna fish as the main staple of virtually every meal, with small amounts of noodles, rice and tomato sauce.

Administration officials refused to comment on when they estimate food supplies will run out.