by N. Janardhan
(IPS) DUBAI --
Hussein's intended apology to the Kuwaiti people for Iraq's 1990 invasion was more of a warning and an incitement as it also accused Kuwait's leaders of plotting against Baghdad, say regional leaders.
It was a warning to those in the region who might be collaborating with the United States against the Arab nation and Iraq, they add.
"The message is an unveiled attempt to create a rift in the united ranks of the Kuwaiti people and leadership," said Kuwaiti Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad al Fahd al Sabah.
Saddam should apologize first to the Iraqis for "dragging them into wars." Then, Sheikh Ahmed told the Kuwaiti News Agency, he should apologize to Kuwait by releasing 600 prisoners of war and "respecting our sovereignty."
In a televised speech on Saturday, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al Sahhaf said on behalf on Saddam: "We regret all that happened to you as a result of the position you (Kuwaitis) took" in the run-up to the invasion. Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and occupied it for seven months before being expelled by a U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf war. Again, Kuwait is now seen as a likely launchpad for the offensive Washington has threatened to launch against Iraq.
In the same statement, Saddam accused the Kuwaitis of collaborating with U.S. plans to occupy Iraq. They said their leaders were "planning hand-in-hand with foreign armies to harm Iraq and facilitate its occupation."
Referring to the presence of U.S. troops, Saddam's message said Kuwait was under "direct foreign military occupation" and hailed "devout youth who carry arms against the occupier" -- a reference to Kuwaiti militants who have recently attacked U.S. soldiers in the country.
The Iraqi leader's remarks, said United Arab Emirates' Information Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, had dispelled "whatever sympathy the Iraqi leadership might still enjoy and confirmed that the Iraqi political and media discourse lacks credibility at a time when the country needs to do all it can to shield the region from the looming confrontation."
"This speech does not express good will... and is not in the spirit of the resolutions of the Arab summit in Beirut concerning Iraq's respect for Kuwait's sovereignty," the Gulf Co-operation Council secretary-general told 'Al Rai Al Aam' daily.
Abdul Rahman al Attiya, a Qatari, said the message "contained nothing new, merely repeating the usual excuses for the invasion of Kuwait."
Saddam's apology was part of a series of concessions under pressure in an effort to escape war. It came simultaneously with his compliance with a Sunday deadline to deliver a declaration of his banned weapons programmes to the United Nations.
In a speech on Friday, he welcomed the renewed operations of the inspectors he had so long opposed. He said he was determined to use "this opportunity" to prove Iraq's good faith about disarming in order to "keep our people out of harm's way."
At an Arab summit in Beirut in March, Iraq had agreed to settle through dialogue the outstanding issue of some 600 Kuwaiti prisoners of war still listed as missing, and in October, it handed back Kuwait's national archives that it had removed in 1991.
But skeptics say that the barely concealed concessions from the Iraqi president show his determination to buy time. With more than 60,000 U.S. troops already assembled in the region, 12,000 of them in Kuwait, even Saddam sees the importance of giving some ground.
Ali Jaber al Sabah, an independent Kuwaiti political analyst, said the presence of U.S. military in the country was not controversial. "The speech confirmed the evil intentions of the Ba'ath government, and Kuwaitis will unite rather than revolt against the rulers."
Ali Jaber said in an interview that Saddam has taken such awful risks throughout his career not because he "miscalculated," as some theorists assert, but because he was chasing his vision. The Iraqi leader, he said, was following the dictates of the Ba'athist ideology, which calls for "warfare, bloodshed, revolution, and conflict, on and on, against one and all, until the end of time."
The apology did not cut much ice with the Kuwaiti media either. The 'Al Qabas' daily described Saddam's speech as a "coarse threat" and his apology "invalid."
The Iraqi leader is a "time bomb that threatens international peace." It added: "He doesn't learn from catastrophes he caused for Iraq, Kuwait and the region and he can't hide his aggressive nature."
Though there was some positive reaction too, it was muted and anonymous. "Despite his warlike appeals and the fact that his apology was clearly made through gritted teeth, the gesture was still there and it's now that much more difficult to argue that Iraq constitutes a threat to its neighbors," a diplomat said.
December 10 2002 (http://albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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