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Kuwait issues Iraqi warning

An international force liberated Kuwait from Iraq in 1990
An international force liberated Kuwait from Iraq in 1990  

UNITED NATIONS -- Kuwait has marked the 11th anniversary of its invasion by Iraq with a warning that it believes Saddam Hussein is trying to destabilise the region.

And concern at Baghdad's intentions is rising in Washington after an increase in the number of Iraqi attempts to target U.S. and UK air patrols over the country.

Baghdad annexed oil-rich Kuwait on August 2, 1990, but held onto the territory for just six months before an international coalition taking in western and Arabic nations forced the Iraqi military into retreat.

Since then sanctions have been in place against Iraq and U.S. and UK military planes enforce no-fly zones in the north and south of the country.

In recent weeks Iraqi newspapers have been carrying stories about an armed opposition in Kuwait and the U.S. says no-fly patrols are increasingly being targetted by Iraqi defensive systems.

Source have told CNN the U.S. is preparing to respond to protect the air patrols and, although Pentagon officials have not commented on any planned attack, a second U.S. aircraft carrier has entered the Persian Gulf.

Kuwait says it is taking new threats of Iraqi attacks very seriously, Kuwait's acting U.N. representative said.

Kuwait's U.N. representative said: "We have no trust of this regime, and we know he still poses a threat. If he had any chance to do it again, he might do it."

In recent weeks, the Kuwaiti government has become increasingly concerned about Iraqi press reports that an armed opposition group is operating in the country.

Information Minister Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed said on Wednesday the reports "made us certain that there are intentions for a terrorist act in Kuwait."

The Iraqis claim the group includes stateless people ousted by Kuwait who have already started to vandalise some institutions, Al-Otaiba said.

But Kuwait believes Saddam may be using these people as a cover for his own operations, Al-Otaibi said.

"We think the Iraqis…will seize any opportunities to destabilise the region, particularly Kuwait, by threatening, by establishing such groups," he said.

After the Gulf War, Kuwait signed security defence agreements with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China.

Between 17,000 and 25,000 American troops remain in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. U.S. and British aircraft patrol no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

"Kuwait now is much stronger than 1990," Al-Otaibi said. "Now we can rely really on our friends, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Britain.

"We can really face any Iraqi aggression. ... It will not be like what happened in 1990."

Meanwhile, senior White House officials met on Wednesday to discuss Iraq policy.

Sources told CNN the U.S. is making plans for to respond to Iraq's stepped-up campaign to shoot down a U.S. or British plane enforcing the no-fly zones.

In the past week it dispersed some missiles, radars and aircraft into a more defensive posture, according to Pentagon sources.

Pentagon officials would not confirm details of the planning, including the scale or timing of any attack.

"We reserve the right to strike targets at a time and a place in a manner of our choosing," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said.

Quigley said Saddam "is trying his darndest to bring down a coalition aircraft."

He said in the southern no-fly zone there have been 370 "provocations" by Iraqi gunners so far this year, compared to only 211 in 2000.

• Iraqi Government
• Kuwait Government
• United Nations
• Operation Desert Storm

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