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UN To Help Find Missing Kuwaitis

April 6, 2000

KUWAIT (AP) _ A U.N. official listened Thursday to tearful accounts from relatives of Kuwaitis missing since Iraq invaded this small Gulf state in 1990, and promised to help find out what happened to their loved ones.

Retired Russian ambassador Yuli Vorontsov was appointed in February by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to make a fresh attempt at convincing Iraq to account for 605 people who disappeared during its seven-month occupation of Kuwait.

Vorontsov arrived Wednesday on his first visit to Kuwait. Thursday, he listened to people like Akeel al-Thafiri, who said he hasn’t heard from his son Fahd since he was arrested Oct. 6, 1990 while trying to enter Kuwait from Saudi Arabia.

``How can Iraqis deny they have him?″ al-Thafiri asked Vorontsov, handing him copies of documents indicating Fahd was interrogated by Iraqi army officers and then taken to Iraq.

Vorontsov said he would ``mobilize more organizations and countries″ to work on the problem, including some that could have influence with Iraq. He said he would seek help from the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the nonaligned movement.

Iraq’s ``stubbornness″ so far has prevented human rights organizations from inspecting its prisons, he said, but added that he was optimistic international pressure would change that.

Most of the missing are Kuwaitis and foreigners living in Kuwait at the time of the crisis, which ended with the allied victory over Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.Relatives say many were arrested in the street, at their homes and at mosques.

Iraq maintains it has released all war prisoners, but lost track of 127 in an uprising after the war. It has withdrawn from an international committee looking into the issue, accusing Kuwait of failing to account for 1,150 missing Iraqis.

Kuwait says it has received case files on only 70 Iraqis and is investigating those, even though the government does not consider itself legally responsible for Iraqis who disappeared while Kuwait was under occupation.

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