"We had two suicide bombers turn themselves in yesterday because they didn't want to be suicide bombers any more," Col. Steve Cox, commander of the Royal Marine Commandos running Umm Qasr, told reporters. "We are accommodating them."
The pair had no explosives in their possession when they surrendered, Cox said, adding that they were turned over to British military intelligence for interrogation and would be treated as enemy prisoners of war. He did not give any details about the alleged plans for a suicide attack.
Coalition forces have been on heightened alert for suicide attackers since one posing as a taxi driver detonated a bomb that killed four U.S. Army soldiers Saturday at a checkpoint farther north.
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan pledged more suicide attacks would follow and called Saturday's "just the beginning." Iraq has said thousands of Arab volunteers ready for martyrdom have come to Iraq since the start of the war.
Umm Qasr is one of the few fully pacified towns inside Iraq and is vital to supplying the rest of the country with humanitarian aid because it is the only large seaport.
A U.N. security team was in the city Tuesday to determine whether it is safe enough for humanitarian workers to return.
"We're all waiting for their report to give a clearances to the effect that the environment would permit humanitarian workers back," said John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Local Iraqis are increasingly informing British sources of the whereabouts of officials from Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party, Cox said.
Thirty-five party officials are in custody, and three to four more remain at large, Cox said.
The town of 30,000 people was plagued by pockets of resistance until several days ago, but is now safe enough for troops and ordinary civilians to walk around at night, Cox said. He added that there has been no recent guerrilla activity.
By Patrick McDowell