Kuwait fears a powerful
post-Saddam government

Friday, January 3, 2003

ABU DHABI Kuwait expects to be a major launching pad for any war against Iraq but continues to question U.S. strategy regarding the successor to the current regime led by President Saddam Hussein.

Kuwait has expressed concern over the prospect of a powerful pro-U.S. regime in Iraq that could dominate the region. Officials said they want to ensure that any post-Saddam ruler would pledge to end hostilities toward and shelve territorial claims against Kuwait.

"The government still does not have a final perception on how to deal with the Iraqi regime that would replace that of Saddam Hussein should it be toppled," Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah said.

The United States has been building up its forces in Kuwait. Officials expect close to 20,000 U.S. troops and equipment over the next few weeks in preparation for a war against Baghdad. Most of those troops are expected to be deployed in Kuwait.

Kuwaiti officials said the sheikdom does not have a clear picture of what type of regime would replace that of Saddam. They said other questions include Iraq's future role in the Persian Gulf region and Baghdad's relations with Kuwait.

Al Sabah told the Al Rai Al Aam daily on Thursday that the sheikdom is closely monitoring such developments as U.S. talks with the Iraqi opposition regarding a post-Saddam Iraq. He said Kuwait is examining the prospect of future relations with a post-Saddam regime.

The foreign minister said Kuwait, as Iraq's immediate southern neighbor, would have to review security ties with any post-Saddam regime. The two countries have long had tense relations even before Saddam seized power in 1979.

"Our perception is not frozen," Al Sabah said. "But we deal with the event thoroughly and prefer to wait before announcing any step as a precuationary measure for the sake of fully comprehending and analyzing the situation."

"What goes on in Iraq is an issue of paramount importance to Kuwait," the foreign minister said. "So, it is natural for Kuwait to discuss all possibilities regarding its relations with the Iraqis currently and in the future. We are just waiting until the picture becomes more clear and complete."

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