Gulf forces deployed away from Iraqi border in Kuwait

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

ABU DHABI A Gulf Arab force deployed to help protect Kuwait has stayed away from the Iraqi border.

The Peninsula Shield force of the Gulf Cooperation Council has been deployed around northern and central Kuwait, officials said. They said the GCC force has embarked on a range of security missions in the sheikdom.

Nearly 10,000 Gulf Arab troops from five GCC states are participating in the mission in Kuwait. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have deployed the largest forces in the sheikdom.

"The Peninsula Shield force is well trained and capable of shouldering its mission, and its is now working in cooperation with the Kuwaiti command for realizing the desired goal as regards defending Kuwait," force commander Maj. Gen. Omer Hassan Baba'eer said.

Baba'eer outlined the mission and duties of the Peninsula Shield in an interview to reporters on March 28. He said the force is meant to serve as the first line of defense for any GCC state that faces an external threat.

The commander said the GCC force has not been deployed along the Kuwaiti border with Iraq. The northern Kuwaiti border has tens of thousands of U.S. troops waiting to enter Iraq.

So far, Baba'eer said, Peninsula Shield has embarked on a range of missions in Kuwait. They include the removal of mines planted by Iraq's military during its occupation of Kuwait in 1990. In one sweep, an Iraqi mine exploded and injured an unspecified number of soldiers.

"Following the explosion of the mine, the Kuwait army in cooperation with the engineering units at Peninsula Shield force combed the area and no more mines were discovered with the exception of some mines which were no longer effective," Baba'eer said.

The commander did not say when the current GCC mission would end in Kuwait, which has formal command of the Peninsula Shield force. He denied reports that commanders have quit the force amid friction between Gulf Arab countries.

"They are performing their mission in a satisfactory manner despite the difficult desert conditions they are working under," Baba'eer said. 'The personnel of the force are working collectively in a fraternal spirit."

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