Kuwait PM visits Iraq for first time since Gulf War

AFP, Wednesday 12 Jan 2011

For the first time since 1990, Kuwait's prime minister visits Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Premier Nouri Al-Maliki

Kuwait pm

Kuwait's prime minister arrived to a red carpet welcome in Baghdad on Wednesday in the first such visit since Saddam Hussein's forces invaded the oil-rich emirate in 1990.

Television footage showed Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah being greeted at Baghdad airport by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and deputy foreign minister Labid Abbawi.

The Kuwaiti national anthem played as Sheikh Nasser walked down a red carpet to the group of waiting dignitaries.

The visit is the first by a Kuwaiti premier to Iraq since Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah in 1989, and the first since Saddam ordered his forces to invade Kuwait in August 1990.

The assault was rapidly met with a concerted international military response that seven months later pushed Saddam's forces out of the emirate and eventually ended in his ouster by a US-led coalition in 2003.

The visit was "to congratulate Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki on the new government, and to confirm the depth of the relations between the two countries," Abbawi said.

"It will create a great opportunity to open the road for discussions about outstanding issues between the two countries," he said.

"It is also a very important political message confirming Iraq's preparations to host the coming Arab summit," which is planned for March, Abbawi added.

Maliki's new government was approved by parliament on 21 December, after more than nine months of political gridlock following an inconclusive election as political groups haggled over the formation of a coalition.

The visit also comes two days after Iraqi fishermen killed a Kuwaiti coast guard and a fishing boat was sunk during a clash at sea.

Kuwait's interior ministry said the skirmish occurred when an Iraqi boat entered Kuwaiti waters and refused orders from a coast guard patrol to stop.

There are a number of outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait relating to the 1990 Iraqi invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait.

Iraq still pays five per cent of revenues from its oil sales into a reparations fund for Kuwait, which is demanding that Baghdad pay another $22 billion. Kuwait has received about $13 billion in reparations.

Kuwait also demands that Iraq return property stolen during the occupation and explain the fate of hundreds of missing Kuwaitis.

In December, the emirate urged Iraq to fully apply all international resolutions and settle outstanding issues after the UN Security Council voted to end key sanctions imposed on Baghdad.

At the time, the Kuwaiti cabinet also welcomed UN Security Council resolutions to halt some sanctions that were imposed on Iraq after the 1990 invasion.

Kuwait said then that "commitment to serious and full implementation of Security Council resolutions related to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait will close all files and settle outstanding issues.

"This will also lay foundations for strong relations based on the respect of sovereignty and independence and the principle of good neighbourly relations and non-interference in internal affairs," it said.

In August, Kuwait and Iraq agreed in principle on a deal to regulate production from the border oilfields that were at the centre of the Gulf war.

A number of oilfields lie on the border between the two Arab countries, including Iraq's giant Rumaila which extends into Kuwait where it is known as Ritqa. There are other such fields in Zubair and Safwan.

Saddam accused Kuwait of stealing oil from Rumaila when his forces launched their invasion in 1990.

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