Phone, Fax, Telex Dead in Iraq, Kuwait; Telex Survives in Iraq
NEW YORK (AP) _ U.S. telecommunications companies said Tuesday they hold little hope of restoring phone or Telex service to Kuwait anytime soon.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein pulled the plug on telephone lines soon after invading Kuwait nearly two weeks ago, leaving Telex as the only alternate source of communication. But the last confirmed Telex service from Kuwait was Aug. 4, Western Union Corp. spokeswoman Jean Stritt said.
″Telex traffic is being received in Iraq. But as far as Kuwait goes, perhaps Iraq has rerouted traffic going into Kuwait and is doing something to it that we don’t know about,″ Mrs. Stritt said.
Western Union is trying to restore service with an alternate route through Italy, but company officials do not expect that link to be restored, Mrs. Stritt said.
President Bush’s embargo of Iraq did not make clear whether telecommunictions companies were bound to halt all communications with Iraq or just stop paying the country for services, Mrs. Stritt said.
″Both AT&T and Western Union lawyers consulted and said they were common carriers and had an obligation to keep those lines open,″ she said.
The companies did agree to stop transferring money to Iraq.
Since then, Telex traffic from Iraq - which had been growing before the invasion - dropped by more than half, Mrs. Stritt said.
U.S. long-distance companies that previously could routinely complete calls to that part of the world can’t solve the problem or investigate the cause.
″The circuits are basically dead. They’re nonexistent. We don’t know what happened at the other end,″ said Mike Miller, international media relations manager for American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
AT&T logged an average of 24,000 phone calls an hour into Kuwait the day after the invasion.
That number has dropped to 49,000 attempts a day, even though AT&T has no link to Kuwait or Iraq, Miller said.
Callers to Kuwait, where AT&T has no physical line, get a recording telling them their call cannot be completed.
Callers to Iraq get either a busy signal or an announcement their calls cannot be completed.
″We have tried to communicate with them and have had no success. As far a I know, we haven’t gotten a response,″ Miller said.
Aides at MCI Communications Corp. and US Sprint, the other major long- distance U.S. phone companies, face the same situation.
″The rest of the Middle East is no problem,″ said US Sprint spokesman John Landsberg.