KUWAIT IS ready to receive a neutral international committee to investigate Iraqi accusations that the emirate has been stealing oil, Information Minister Saad Ben Teflah Al Ajmi said on Monday.
“We are ready to receive a neutral technical international committee to prove that we are telling the truth and the Iraqi claims are baseless,” the minister told AFP in an interview.
“What's Kuwait's interest in `stealing' Iraqi oil? Kuwait does not need Iraqi oil, as we sit on 10 per cent of proven world reserves,” he said. Iraq has repeatedly accused Kuwait over the past week of stealing its oil with one report saying it involved at least 300,000 barrels of crude a day taken from oil fields in the border area.
Kuwait branded the Iraqi claims as “lies” and accused Baghdad of trying to provoke a new war.
“We are producing just 43,000 barrels a day from the Ritqa oilfield (on the border with Iraq). We cannot dig horizontally because that requires advanced technology and prior knowledge of the oil locations,” Ajmi said.
“Our operations on the border with Iraq are carried out in the presence of the UN. The UNIKOM (UN Iraq-Kuwait Observers Mission) is deployed on both sides of the border.”
A decisive international and Arab condemnation and warning were needed to abort any Iraqi aggression, the minister said.
“We believe that escalation (of tension) and (launching) of threats is an established policy for the Iraqi government. Continuing that policy is linked to the presence of the current regime in Baghdad,” Ajmi said.
Kuwait's cabinet on Sunday urged the world community to take “serious measures to ensure that Iraq does not repeat its threats to the security of Kuwait and states in the area in a way to achieve peace and stability in this vital region.”
In Baghdad, a senior Iraqi MP said on Monday that Baghdad was not threatening any of its neighbours but remained determined to defend itself in the face of US warnings of military action.
“Iraq is threatening no-one and has no intention of attacking anyone, but it is determined to reclaim its rights,” Salem Al Qubaissi, head of Iraq's parliamentary commission on Arab and international relations, told AFP.
Qubaissi was reacting to threats by US officials of military action against Iraq if it were to attack its neighbours, a charge the parliamentarian dismissed as a “baseless allegation.”
US Defence Secretary William Cohen said in Singapore Sunday that US forces in the Gulf were fully prepared to stop any aggressive action by Iraq.
Such statements “cannot weaken Iraq, which will continue to say the truth,” Qubaissi said, accusing the United States of looking to “maintain the embargo at a time when international initiatives for the lifting of the embargo were gathering pace.”
The official Ath Thawra newspaper, meanwhile, said US statements were testament to the “block” in Washington's policy on Iraq.
( Jordan Times )
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )