(AFP) – Jan 16, 2010
KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait is not asking its former occupier Iraq to repay a multi-billion-dollar debt but only for assurances on security and good neighbourly ties, the Kuwaiti foreign minister has said.
"What we need from Iraq is security and assurances. We don't want money which is the last thing on our mind," Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah told Al-Qabas newspaper in an interview due to appear on Sunday.
"Let me be very clear. We have not asked Iraq to repay the debt," said Sheikh Mohammad, according to an advance copy of the interview received by AFP.
Kuwait loaned Iraq an estimated 16 billion dollars during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.
Iraq's new leaders have repeatedly urged oil-rich Arab countries to cancel Baghdad's debt, mostly comprised of Gulf support during the war with Iran.
Sheikh Mohammad called on Iraq to help create the atmosphere conducive that could allow the Kuwaiti parliament to write off the debt.
"We want Iraq to be a good and safe neighbour," said the Kuwaiti minister who complained that some Iraqi MPs still praise former leader Saddam Hussein for invading the oil-rich emirate.
The emirate is also owed around 25 billion dollars in war reparations by Baghdad, but Sheikh Mohammad said compensation "has its own international mechanism."
Last September the Kuwaiti foreign minister said his country is considering a proposal by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for it to invest the billions of dollars of unpaid compensation inside Iraq in joint ventures.
Iraq has already paid 27.62 billion dollars in reparations to individuals, organisations, companies and governments, around half of which was paid to Kuwait.
Kuwait is also demanding maintenance of land border marks, return of property stolen during the invasion, repatriation of remains of prisoners of war and demarcation of maritime borders.
Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990 before they were driven out by a US-led international coalition seven months later.
"The issue is not financial ... there are deep concerns among a large section of Kuwaitis about policies of the new Iraq," Sheikh Mohammad said.
He said Kuwait was concerned over lawlessness in southern Iraq, a possible sectarian conflict that could spill over to Kuwait and Al-Qaeda militants moving into Kuwait from Iraq.