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Stunned Kuwait Demands Clarification From Iraq Over New Land Claims
Published on Sunday, February 22, 2004 by Agence France Presse
Stunned Kuwait Demands Clarification From Iraq Over New Land Claims

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait, invaded and occupied by Saddam Hussein's army, expressed amazement and concern over new territorial claims from Iraq and demanded clarification from the interim Governing Council over statements attributed to its current president.

This is an irresponsible statement ... It appears that the current chairman wants to become a copy of Saddam Hussein.

Kuwaiti lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak
"The State of Kuwait followed up the statement with concern and amazement. We are awaiting clarification from the interim Governing Council of brotherly Iraq about the truth of the statement and its aim," the state-run KUNA news agency quoted an official source as saying.

It was Kuwait's first official reaction to the council's president, who said Saturday that Baghdad could consider territorial claims over neighboring Jordan and Kuwait in the future.

"We need our Arab brothers around us. Now, we cannot discuss this matter with them at all, but in the future, we'll see," said Mohsen Abdul Hamid, in response to a question from a Baghdad consultative council member.

Shaza Hadi al-Obeidi had asked Abdul Hamid about the status of territory once linked to Iraq, such as Jordan and Kuwait, at an extraordinary meeting of the 37-member consultative council.

"This is an irresponsible statement ... It appears that the current chairman wants to become a copy of Saddam Hussein," outspoken Kuwaiti lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak told AFP.

Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and annexed the oil-rich Gulf emirate, before his troops were chased out seven months later in the US-led 1991 Gulf War.

Baghdad has for decades laid claim to Kuwait as an integral part of Iraq, arguing the emirate was artificially separated by the British colonizers.

"I believe that Iraq is the last country on earth that should be willing to reopen old files with its neighbors. It now urgently needs to focus on reconstruction," Kuwaiti political analyst and writer Sami al-Nesef said.

"Statements like these do not serve the interests of anyone ... They are harmful to the development efforts in Iraq ... The country needs to strengthen its ties with the neighbors.," Nesef told AFP.

The oil-rich emirate is preparing to mark its 13th anniversary of liberation from Iraqi occupation on February 26, and the 43th anniversary of independence from British rule on February 25.

Last September, the then chairman of the Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi, said Iraq fully recognizes the UN-demarcated international border with Kuwait and seeks good ties with its tiny southern neighbor.

"Iraq clearly recognizes the international borders which were drawn up under UN Security Council Resolution 833," said Chalabi, who is president of the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

Under Resolution 833 passed in 1993, the Security Council set the 200-kilometer-long (120-mile) land border as well as the maritime border between the two countries.

The INC came under fire in Kuwait last month after its vice president, Mudhar Shawkat, said that the Kuwaiti Gulf islands of Bubiyan and Warba were essential for Iraq's economic development, urging the emirate to lease them.

Saddam asked to lease the islands at the start of his country's 1980-1988 war with Iran. Although Kuwait backed Iraq in that conflict, it turned down the request.

"Kuwait is certainly displeased over such statements. But we also realize that the Iraqi (Governing Council president) is changed every month and this is only an interim government," Nesef said.

Kuwait acted as a springboard to the US-led invasion of Iraq last year that ousted former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

"We want to tell our Iraqi brothers, that to open a new page in our relations, you must end this foul play," Barrak said, in reference to similar statements laying claim to Kuwait by other Iraqi officials.

Many of the 25 members of the Governing Council have visited Kuwait, some several times, during the past several months as new ties are established.

Interim Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari has said his country was prepared to sign a "treaty of guarantees" with Kuwait once a sovereign government is established in Baghdad.

© Copyright 2004 AFP


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