Kuwaiti Envoy Glad Saddam Still Rules Iraq
Apr. 29, 1991
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Kuwait's ambassador to the United States said Monday he is glad Saddam Hussein remains in power in Iraq because his presence means sanctions will remain in place against the defeated country.
''Getting him out is Iraq's concern,'' said Sheik Saud Nasir al-Sabah during remarks to a day-long symposium on the future of democracy in Kuwait.
''He is there because there is so much concern that if he goes, there will be a vacuum. ... He is still there, crippled, injured and weakened. I would rather see him there'' in that condition, the ambassador said.
The tone of the ambassador's remarks appeared more relaxed than that of an April 7 speech by Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the ruling emir, in which he said he still feared the possibility of ''a mad act'' by Iraq so long as Saddam remained its leader.
''Our fear is that he will go, and there will be a new regime and the world will forgive Iraq'' and lift the U.N. trade embargoes imposed after Baghdad's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, said Al-Sabah.
With Saddam still in charge, ''it at least gives us a breathing space'' to work out a new post-war relationship with Iraq, he said.
The ambassador also repeated his government's belief that it is in Kuwait's interest to extend voting rights to women and to the thousands of naturalized citizens who now are denied a voice in how their country is run.
Some speakers at the symposium, sponsored by the National Republican Institute for International Affairs, said Kuwaitis will demand even more radical changes - including new leadership.
The Iraqi invasion has ''put the Sabah family's legitimacy in question,'' said Ahmed Bishara, a university professor who remained in his country and worked with the resistance during Iraq's occupation.
Al-Sabah said that the National Assembly, suspended in 1986 after it became a forum for dissent against the government, would be restored early in 1992 and that national elections likely will be held before November.
''Democracy will be in 1992, no doubt about it,'' the ambassador said, defining democracy as the restoration of the parliament.
''We have our own system. It's called democracy, Kuwaiti style - the way the Kuwaiti people drew it up for themselves,'' he said. ''The evolution of democracy, in my understanding of it, takes time, takes patience.''
A higher priority, he said, is rebuilding the country from Iraq's destruction and enticing back home the 50 percent or so of the population that remains abroad.
He called for amending the country's constitution to permit women and naturalized Kuwaitis to vote. Under the current system, only males who can trace their family's citizenship to before 1921 have that right - a total of about 68,000 out of nearly 700,000 citizens.
''That seems to me ludicrous,'' the ambassador said. But he said it will be the responsibility of the National Assembly to broaden voting rights, something that body has failed to do in the past. It will be up to Kuwaitis to ''put more pressure on their candidates to support this trend,'' he said.
Under the Kuwaiti constitution, the emir can propose constitutional amendments to the legislature, something the ambassador hinted might happen. ''Let's wait and see,'' he told a reporter. ''It's in the interests of the country.''