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Kuwaiti officials scorn Baghdad's return of missing items

Monday, December 23, 2002

KUWAIT CITY -- Kuwait scorned Iraq's return of paintings, swords and other cultural items missing since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion, dismissing it Sunday as a public relations ploy.

"They are not handing over the things that are important to us, like the war prisoners and the historic documents," Abdul-Hamid al-Awadhi, a foreign ministry official, told The Associated Press.

Iraqi leaders want to "improve their image" and "show the world they were cooperating," he said.

Kuwait accuses Iraq of failing to account for more than 600 Kuwaitis and other nationals missing since the Gulf crisis. Baghdad insists it has released all war prisoners.

Truckloads of documents

Last month, Iraq delivered five truckloads of documents it looted from Kuwait's government offices during the conflict. Kuwait said the papers did not include any of the country's historic documents.

Under the supervision of U.N. observers Sunday, Kuwaiti officials crossed the border into Iraq to pick up paintings, revolvers, hunting guns, swords, a small carpet and an ornate box the foreign ministry said also were looted by Iraqi troops.

Baghdad's state-run Al-Qadissiya newspaper said Sunday the items had been confiscated by Iraqi customs authorities. It did not explain why. It said the items included four paintings, seven gifts presented by heads of state to Kuwait's ruling family and items that belonged to Kuwait's museum.

Ties between the two countries have been severed since Iraq's invasion and seven month occupation, and the 1991 Gulf War that ended it.

Saddam earlier this month made an unprecedented but grudging apology to Kuwaitis for invading their country, blaming the Kuwaiti government and Americans for provoking it. Kuwait rejected the apology.


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