Kuwait to appoint first ambassador to Iraq since 1990
Almost two decades after the Gulf War in 1990, Kuwait is willing to appoint an Ambassador to Iraq. Much needs to be done to mend bilateral relations though.
Kuwait to name ambassador to Iraq soon, would be 1st since 1990
2008-07-10 17:45:12 -
KUWAIT CITY (AP) - Kuwait announced Thursday it will soon name its first ambassador to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's troops invaded the country in 1990, a major step in healing the two countries' painful past.
Still, memories of Iraq's brutal seven-month occupation of its smaller oil-rich neighbor remain fresh, and some Kuwaitis feel the step is coming too soon. Others fear the embassy will be a magnet for attacks despite improvements in Iraq's security.
Kuwait will join the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in opening up diplomatically to Baghdad. As security improves, Iraq's government has turned its attention to gaining the support of Arab nations and pushing them to send diplomats back to Baghdad.
Khaled al-Jarrallah, the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, said Kuwait's decision was «natural» after «positive security developments in Iraq,» the official Kuwait News Agency reported.
Kuwait, which was the launch pad for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, had said it was scouting for a secure location for its mission in Iraq and that it would be sending an envoy. Thursday was the first time it has indicated an appointment was imminent.
Al-Jarrallah did not give a precise timeframe.
The ambassador will be Kuwait's first to Baghdad since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. A U.S.-led coalition liberated the country in the 1991 Gulf War.
Kuwait and Iraq resumed ties and opened borders after the fall of Saddam's dictatorship in 2003. Iraq has since reopened its embassy in Kuwait, which is headed by a charge d'affaires.
Washington has been urging Arab nations _ most of them predominantly Sunni _ to restore ties with an Iraqi government that has been led by Shiites since the fall of Saddam.
In a meeting of Iraq's neighbors in Kuwait in April, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on fellow Arabs to «stop making security excuses» for failing to re-establish their diplomatic missions in his country.
Kuwaiti lawmaker Nasser al-Saneh welcomed the government's decision, describing it as «responsible» and proof that the Kuwaiti and Iraqi people can put the painful past behind them.
From August 1990 to February 1991, Iraqi occupiers killed and tortured Kuwaitis, changed names of streets and ports, and sabotaged oil wells. For many, like Al-Watan daily columnist Nabil al-Fadhl, wounds have not completely healed. He believes it is too early to reopen an embassy in Iraq.
«Security is still unstable there, and the Kuwaiti embassy specifically will be a target for everybody,» he told The Associated Press.
Iraqi and U.S. officials say violence has declined by 70 percent over the past year, and there have been no attacks on diplomatic missions in years. Al-Qaida in Iraq has warned Arab states not to open embassies in Baghdad because of the Iraqi government's collaboration with U.S. forces.
Diplomats from Bahrain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries have all been either killed, wounded or kidnapped in Iraq.
The United Arab Emirates and Jordan have named ambassadors to Iraq in recent weeks, and the UAE has forgiven Iraq's US$7 billion in debts and interest. Kuwait says a similar move to write off some US$15 billion is for parliament to decide, not the government alone.
«Kuwait is an exceptional case, no other country was invaded and occupied by Iraq,» columnist al-Fadhl said. «The international community should not expect it to act exactly like the UAE or any other country.
Iraq also wants Kuwait to forgive billions of dollars in compensation awarded by the United Nations for Gulf War damage. It has not promised anything.
Shafiq al-Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, believes the diplomatic opening up means more Arab confidence in al-Maliki's Shiite-led Cabinet, as well as the post-2003 political scene in Iraq that gave more power to Shiites and Kurds at the expense of Sunnis.
Unlike other Arabs, Kuwait had accepted that early on, he said. «Slowly, slowly, Arabs are accepting the new formula which seems to be more stable than some believe it to be.
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