Friday, February 27, 2009
Kuwait, Iraq are closer to reconciling
The Associated Press Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.27.2009 advertisementBAGHDAD — Iraq took another step toward healing its rift with Kuwait on Thursday as government leaders welcomed the highest-ranking Kuwaiti envoy since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion. The timing of the visit by Kuwait's deputy prime minister, Sheik Mohammed Al Sabah came as Kuwaitis celebrated the 18th anniversary of the U.S.-led military campaign that drove out Saddam's forces. But much of tiny Persian Gulf nation was left looted and devastated by the Iraqi occupation, and Kuwait still claims billions of dollars in war reparations. It has refused appeals by Iraq's government to reduce its demands and forgive $15 billion in Iraqi debt. There was no mention of the payments in public statements during Thursday's talks, but Iraq's prime minister made a point of denouncing Saddam's aggression. "We are working on the concepts of security and stability, not the ideas of weapons and dictatorship of the Saddam era," Nouri al-Maliki said after meeting with Sheik Mohammed, who is also Kuwait's foreign minister. Kuwait and several other mostly Sunni Muslim Arab nations have restored diplomatic ties with Iraq, but they remain wary of the Shiite-led government's relations with the mostly Shiite Persians of Iran. The Kuwait News Agency said Mohammed was expected to make another official visit to Baghdad soon with Kuwait's prime minister, Sheik Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah. No date was set for that visit. Ties between Kuwait and Iraq were severed when Saddam invaded. But they resumed relations after Saddam was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. In southern Iraq on Thursday, authorities buried the remains of more than 480 Iraqi soldiers killed in two wars during Saddam's rule. The ceremony near Basra included the remains of troops from Iraq's 1980-88 war with Iran and the 1991 U.S.-led offensive that ended Iraq's seven-month occupation of Kuwait. The graves included the remains of nearly 250 soldiers returned by Iran last year and more than 60 sent from Saudi Arabia, where some of the 1991 fighting spilled over.