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Captured Soldiers Went Too Close to Iraqi Border With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt

November 5, 1990

RAMBOUILLET, France (AP) _ Three French soldiers captured by an Iraqi patrol exceeded their orders by straying too close to Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia, Defense Minister Jean- Pierre Chevenement said Monday.

″It’s obvious that these men, who are part of a unit charged with reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, had a mission to go take a close look, but not too close,″ Chevenement said.

However, he did not confirm the soldiers actually strayed into Iraqi territory as stated by the Joint Forces Command directing multinational troops in Saudi Arabia.

″They were at the edge of the Iraqi-Saudi border,″ he said. ″I can’t say anything to the contrary. This incident could have been much more serious.″

The captain, master sergeant and sergeant arrived Sunday in Paris after being captured six days earlier northwest of the Saudi town of Hafar el Batin. Iraq turned them over to French diplomats in Baghdad.

French defense officials have promised the soldiers will be punished, if not for crossing the border then at least for ″excessive ardor,″ as Chevenement put it, in getting too close.

The soldiers, identified in the French press as belonging to the 13th Dragoons Paratroop Regiment, also committed an error by failing to spot the Iraqi patrol that captured them, French officials said.

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