Hungry foreign contractors are flooding into the gulf to get their part of the massive job of rebuilding Kuwait.

As U.S. forces stood on the outskirts of Kuwait City Monday, Kuwait's exiled government in Saudi Arabia signed the first contracts of what's going to be the largest - and probably fastest - reconstruction project in history.Fahd Abdullah Al-Hisawy, the exiled government's minister for municipal affairs, estimates it will eventually cost $40 billion to rebuild Kuwait, although private estimates indicate it may cost three times that amount.

Al-Hisawy said the oil-rich emirate obviously won't have an exact estimate until government officials see what's happened to their country.

The reconstruction project already has touched off a bitter controversy in Britain, where Conservative members of Parliament have charged that British contractors are being effecively frozen out of the lucrative contracts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps of Engineers last week gave contractors 48 hours' notice to register their interest in bidding on projects to restore water, electricity and other essential services in the emirate. British firms complained it normally takes them weeks to prepare such bids and that they couldn't meet the deadline.