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Fox questions why British military were in Mexico


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Great Britain
Mexico
Vicente Fox
Mexico City (Mexico)

(CNN) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox said Wednesday he wants to know why members of the British military were in his country for a cave expedition, but never notified his government.

Six members of a British cave exploration team, including four members of the British military, have been trapped in a cave for a week after flash-flooding prevented their exit.

All are in good health and their lives are not believed to be in jeopardy.

Fox said the British team entered Mexico as tourists and didn't notify the government that some of them were members of the British military and that they were going on an expedition.

"I have instructed the foreign relations minister to file a formal protest immediately and to request a clarification from the British government what were they doing here," Fox said.

The stranded divers are part of an expedition working for the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain.

Steve Whitlock, who is leading the expedition of 12 people, has said they are attempting to map out the Mexican caves because they believe the cave structure might be among the longest in the world.

"It's original exploration, and at the end of the day it is quite good to find passage where nobody has been before," he said.

Half the team left last Tuesday on what was supposed to be a two-day trip, but heavy rains triggered flash-flooding, cutting off the exit.

When they realized what had happened, the six went to an underground camp stocked with food, sleeping bags, a first aid kit and a cave radio.

Whitlock said two of his team members had radio contact with the six trapped cave explorers Wednesday.

"They are in great health and great spirits," he said.

He said there is no immediate threat to their safety because they have enough food to get them through the weekend.

Meanwhile, two British Navy divers are expected to swim through the flooded portion of the cave Thursday.

Whitlock said the divers will bring with them extra scuba gear for those trapped. They will assess whether to bring the cavers out now or to take them more food and supplies and wait until the water recedes.

The area that is flooded is about 100 yards long and reaches to the top of the cave, about 6 six feet high.

The cave is near the town of Cuetzalan, about 180 miles (300 km) northeast of Mexico City.

CNN correspondent Harris Whitbeck contributed to this report.


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