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Kuwaiti Announces Beefed-Up Defenses in Face of Iran-Iraq War

March 23, 1985

KUWAIT (AP) _ Kuwait has turned its Bubiyan Island into a military zone in anticipation of spillovers from the 41/2 -year-old Iran-Iraq war, Defense Minister Sheik Salem al-Sabah was quoted today as saying.

″The war might creep to Kuwait territory any moment,″ he was quoted as telling the newspaper al-Watan. ″And we have taken every precaution necessary to face this eventuality.″

Both sides in the gulf war reported no new fighting. A group of 33 Iranians allegedly felled by Iraqi chemical weapons arrived in Vienna, Austria, and an Austrian physcian who examined them said some had been injured by mustard gas and ″other gases.″

The doctor, identified as Gerhard Freilinger in a broadcast Friday by state television, said some of the Iranians suffered ″first- and second-degree burns and serious (chemical) burns of the lungs.″

Salem said that Kuwait has consolidated sea, ground and air defenses and turned Bubiyan into a ″purely military island, equipped with strong anti- aircraft defenses.″

Arab diplomatic sources in Kuwait, who spoke on condition they not be identified, confirmed that the small island, 87 miles northeast of Kuwait City, has been fortified with troops and batteries of anti-aircraft guns and missiles.

Salem said an early warning system has been installed to defend Kuwait against intruding aircraft.

Two years ago, Iraq asked Kuwait to lease Bubiyan to the Iraqi navy, but the government of Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed refused to do so.

The Kuwaitis have been trying to stay neutral in the war between the two Moslem nations, although their newspapers and broadcast media have been outspoken supporters of Iraq, an Arab country like Kuwait.

Responding to a question, Salem said the Gulf Cooperation Council members - Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar - were in the process of setting up a joint defense force called the Peninsula Shield.

He said Kuwait would contribute two battalions and Saudi Arabia, a brigade. The force would be commanded by a Saudi general.

Salem warned Iran that Kuwait would confront any invader.

″If they (the Iranians) were brave, then let them come to my land and I will be ready for a confrontation,″ he said.

Kuwait’s regular armed forces of 12,500 men are equipped with U.S., British, French and Soviet weapons, including French Mirage F-1 jets and U.S. Skyhawk warplanes.

Its air defense systems include U.S.-made Hawk missile batteries and Gazelle helicopter gunships from France.

British-made Chieftain tanks and French-made hardware make up the backbone of the ground forces.

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