Iraqi troops in Kuwait have set ablaze one quarter of Kuwait's oil fields in the past 24 hours, a U.S. military spokesman said Friday. A total of 140 oil wells were on fire, Brig. Gen. Richard Neal told reporters.

"More than 140 wells have been destroyed in the past 24 hours - they are all burning," he said."This is about 25 percent of its facilities. . . . Kuwaiti oil fields are covered by thick, black smoke. The other facilities are being systematically destroyed - it looks like the commencement of a scorched-earth policy," he said.

Neal said his statement was based on intelligence reports at the U.S. Central Command in the Saudi capital.

Before Friday's announcement, the military had reported at least 40 oil field fires in Kuwait.