Kuwait said on Sunday that Iraq posed a real and ever present threat to the Gulf region and called for serious international steps to contain its former occupier, reported Reuters.
The government was responding to allegations last week from Baghdad, and renewed by the Iraqi press on Sunday, that Kuwait was stealing Iraqi oil from a border field.
Kuwait "strongly rejects these false (Iraqi) accusations and the real danger they pose to regional security and stability," the government said in a statement following its weekly meeting, added the agency.
Kuwait said it received Iraq's claim with "deep concern," describing them as "intentions of enmity and continuous attempts to spread tension and instability in the region."
The cabinet "calls on the international community to take serious steps towards the Iraqi regime's threats and all necessary measures to guarantee Iraq will not repeat its threat to the security of Kuwait and neighboring states," added the statement, according to Reuters.
Iraq has said it is ready to take unspecified measures against Kuwait, but denies threatening its neighbor.
Washington responded with its readiness to use force if Iraq threatened its neighbors, said the agency.
Iraq seized Kuwait on August 2, 1990, citing a dispute over border oil fields and oil policy differences. The US-led Gulf War ended the Iraqi occupation in February 1991.
IRAQ 'WOULD PAY DEARLY'
Kuwaiti officials said the latest claims were identical to an Iraqi complaint to the Arab League prior to the invasion.
Kuwait's defense minister warned Iraq would pay dearly for any military action against the Gulf Arab state.
"Circumstances now are radically different from 1990, and we are on the alert for any act of treachery," Sheikh Salem Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, who is also a deputy prime minister, was quoted as saying by al-Rai al-Aam newspaper.
Diplomats and Western defense sources said the level of concern in Kuwait has been rising steadily since the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion, Reuters noted.
Following the cabinet meeting, Sheikh Salem told reporters that routine exercises with various forces based in and around Kuwait, show its ability to deal swiftly with any aggression.
US and British forces in the area have taken into account the possibility of a fresh military confrontation with Iraq around this time of year. And additional firepower could be immediately rushed to the area in case of an emergency. They last led a major attack against Iraq in December 1998.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "has been awfully quiet for some time now," a senior Western officer told Reuters before the 10th anniversary of the invasion.
"Maybe he is waiting for the American (presidential) elections to enter their final stretch in September or October to return to his old habits and create a new crisis to re-test our resolve," the officer added.
Since Iraqi troops were forced out of Kuwait, Western forces have had almost annual stand-offs and clashes with Iraq, said the agency.
Meanwhile, Libya on Sunday criticized the United States' recent warnings of military action against Iraq, drawing a link between the threats and the current world problems regarding the high price of oil, reported AFP.
"The US threats come at a moment when the world faces a grave oil crisis, and they concern Iraq, an oil-producing country in a sensitive part of the globe," the state news agency JANA reported.
It added that the US military presence in the Gulf was a "waste".
The presence made no economic sense at a time that Europe was struggling with low oil supplies, JANA said.
According to AFP, about 20,000 US military personnel are currently stationed in the Gulf, including the carrier USS George Washington and an air expeditionary force of 60 aircraft, including 50 fighters, has been assembling at bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as part of the latest air force rotation.
Another US air expeditionary force of 45 aircraft and 1,400 support troops is being moved into Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to replace a similar sized force that has been enforcing the northern no-fly zone, said AFP - (Several Sources)
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