Kuwait: Stronger US Ties are the only Safeguard against Iraqi Invasion
Kuwait said Tuesday that only stronger defense and economic ties with the United States would safeguard the emirate against a repeat of Iraq's August 2nd, 1990 invasion, citing the example of Israel.
Kuwait aims to be in a position to resist Iraq on its own for several days rather than the first few hours of the invasion a decade ago, said Defense Minister Sheikh Salem al-Sabah.
"We must link our interests with US interests, like Taiwan and Israel. We must link our interests with US firms. This will make Americans committed to defend Kuwait," he said.
Sheikh Salem said Kuwait would renew its defense pact with the United States when it expires by the end of next year.
The country signed "binding" defense pacts with Washington and London in 1991, as well as memoranda of understanding with France, Russia and China that are "more political in nature than military".
Sheikh Salem, in a lecture at Kuwait University to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion, stressed the importance of building a strong army.
"We must strengthen our army ... because you don't know when Iraq might invade again. We have to be ready for the black day, which we hope will never come," the defense minister said.
He also appealed for increased military spending to buy "highly advanced weapons" for the small Kuwaiti military.
"We don't have the numbers (to face Iraq). If we hold the Iraqis for two or three days, it's excellent. We have to equip our military to help it stand for four or five days," before outside help arrives, Sheikh Salem said.
The country state has set aside some 12 billion dollars until 2004 as a supplementary defense budget to rebuild the Kuwaiti army in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War in which a US-led coalition evicted Iraqi occupation forces.
But the emirate's defense spending has repeatedly come under fire in parliament over allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoings.
Last week, Sheikh Salem said a 436-million-dollar deal to buy 48 pieces of US howitzers would not be signed before clearance from parliament, where many MPs oppose the deal because they allege the guns are outdated.
The United States has some 4,000 troops in Kuwait and US Defense Secretary William Cohen said in October that Washington would strengthen its air bases in the emirate, a move welcomed by Kuwait.
On July 28th, General Tommy Franks, the new commander of the US forces in the Gulf, is to pay his first visit to Kuwait since assuming the post two months ago - KUWAIT CITY (AFP)
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