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Iraq Questions Kuwait’s Borders

January 14, 1999

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq escalated tensions with Kuwait today, questioning the legitimacy of the emirate’s borders and saying that parts of its ``land and coasts″ belong to Baghdad.

The harsh words from Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz appeared to be part of an ongoing series of verbal attacks against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which Baghdad blames for delaying an Arab League meeting on the Iraqi crisis.

Iraq had hoped that during the meeting, now rescheduled for Jan. 24, it would be able to capitalize on popular protests in the Arab world in the aftermath of the Dec. 16-19 U.S.-British airstrikes against Iraq.

Aziz described Kuwait’s borders as ``a bombshell that may explode in the future.″ The comments were made in a front-page commentary, the last in a series of four articles Aziz has written for al-Thawra, the newspaper of the ruling Baath Party.

In his remarks in the newspaper, Aziz pointed out that Iraq accepted Kuwait’s borders in 1994 as part of a U.N. resolution, but added that the resolution was tailored ``to expand Kuwait’s coasts at the expense of Iraq.″

That resolution gave several miles of disputed Iraqi territory to Kuwait, including coastline and parts of the southern port of Um Qasr.

Aziz said that Kuwait’s acceptance of the arrangement ``means that it intentionally wants to inflict more harm on Iraq and the Iraqi people who at the end of the day are owners of the land and the coasts.″

Kuwait complained today to the Arab League about Aziz’s comments, saying ``they are full of lies and deliberate fabrications of history.″

Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990. Its forces were driven out of Kuwait by a U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War.

The invasion prompted the United Nations to impose sweeping trade sanctions against Iraq, which have devastated the country’s economy.

Iraq also said today it would reject any solution to its current standoff with the United Nations that does not include a lifting of the sanctions.

France has put a proposal before the U.N. Security Council that calls for the lifting the oil embargo and the imposition of a new monitoring system aimed at preventing Baghdad from acquiring new weapons of mass destruction.

``Sanctions against Iraq in all their facets should be lifted immediately,″ the Iraqi leadership said in a statement after President Saddam Hussein met with his three top aides.

The statement by the official Iraqi News Agency listed several other demands, including subjecting Israel to a system of disarmament and weapons monitoring and making the United Nations forces, the United States and Britain pay reparations for the December raids.

In his previous commentaries, Aziz had defended the 1990 invasion. But in today’s article, he did not threaten Kuwait with attacks nor say outright that Iraq rejects the sovereignty of the oil-rich emirate.

Iraq has long claimed that Kuwait was part of Iraq during the 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire and was only separated from the country by the British earlier this century. Kuwait denies the claim.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said two American warplanes fired missiles at Iraqi surface-to-air missile centers in two separate confrontations in the no-fly zone over northern Iraq today. It was the fourth day in a row that U.S. planes attacked Iraqi sites.

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