Kuwait takes precautions as Iraq aims to keep up anti-embargo momentum
Kuwait said Tuesday it has taken “all necessary precautions” as President Saddam Hussein's latest threats left Iraqi officials at pains to keep up the momentum toward an end of sanctions.
“The Kuwaiti government has taken all necessary precautions to ward off any misadventure that may come from any side,” said Kuwait's acting premier and foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
Sheikh Sabah, quoted by the emirate's official KUNA news agency, said Kuwait had sent letters to the UN Security Council, Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council about the “serious consequences” of the threats.
The threats coincided with “attempts to eliminate the sufferings of the Iraqi people by forcing their regime to comply with UN resolutions,” he said, referring to UN sanctions in force since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
President Saddam on Monday hit out at both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, accusing them of trying to provoke Baghdad into a confrontation.
“Iraq does not want confrontation with them, but they come to attack us in our own home,” the Iraqi president told his cabinet in a speech, referring to US and British air strikes launched from Saudi and Kuwaiti territory.
President Saddam said he hoped the people of the two Arab Gulf monarchies would tell their governments: “You are putting the Iraqis into such a position that they are forced to attack you.”
The speech drew a sharp warning from Washington.
“US forces, British forces — we are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to make sure that he does not attack his neighbors or attack his own people,” US Defense Secretary William Cohen said.
But Iraqi Information Minister Humam Abdul Khaleq played down the rhetoric.
“I invite you to read Saddam Hussein's words carefully and understand them, so that you don't say afterwards that Iraq is making threats or warnings,” the minister said. “We have no intention of launching a military attack.”
And Iraq's official INA news agency said Abdel Khaleq then briefed the heads of diplomatic missions in Baghdad and gave an assurance that no concrete threat was made.
Such assurances were directed at the countries which have tried to renew bridges with Baghdad and whose initiatives could be compromised by an escalation.
France and Russia have both sent flights to Iraq since Baghdad airport reopened on Aug. 17, ignoring protests from the United States, despite a UN air embargo.
Jordan, another country with economic interests in Iraq, has said it would follow suit on Wednesday.
A second French flight plans to defy the embargo by flying from Paris to Baghdad on Sept. 29 with about 100 passengers, including politicians from several European countries.
And an Iraqi delegation was in Moscow on Tuesday to examine ways of resuming flights to Baghdad by Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline, following a 10-year break.
The UN Sanctions Committee has been unable to agree on the legality of the flights.
Britain and the United States maintain that committee authorization is necessary, while France believes that since the UN resolutions do not impose an aerial embargo on non-commercial flights, notification alone is sufficient.
On the regional front, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al Sharaa called Tuesday for the lifting of the embargo, after a meeting in Damascus with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz.
“We think that it's no longer justifiable to continue the sanctions against Iraq, especially because it's the Iraqi people who are suffering the most,” Sharaa said.
Syria is likewise looking into the possibility of organizing a Baghdad flight, its Industry Minister Ahmad Hamo said on a visit to the Iraqi capital, INA reported. — ( Jordan Times )
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)