Delivering Aid to Iraqis, Hoping to Find POWs
T. Rhem, AFPS
April 14, 2003 — Kuwait is providing "significant
humanitarian assistance" to Iraq while still hoping to recover
its prisoners of war from Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion.
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the government of Kuwait has worked
with the United Kingdom to build a pipeline into Iraq that is
now delivering 2 million liters of fresh water a day.
Kuwaiti relief organizations are providing food
and medicine to several Iraqi cities, and that country has set
up a humanitarian operations center "to serve as a focal
point for funneling aid into Iraq," the secretary told reporters
outside the Pentagon.
At the same time, Kuwait wants to step up efforts
to find some 600 prisoners of war it maintains Iraq still has
from its 1990 occupation of Kuwait. One American, Navy pilot Michael
Scott Speicher, is still unaccounted for from the 1991 Gulf War,
Rumsfeld said the POW issue is one that Kuwait
and the United States "share as a deep concern and an abiding
interest." He was speaking in a joint press conference following
lunch with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah al- Ahmed al-Sabah at
Rumsfeld assured al-Sabah the United States is
working to "pursue every conceivable lead," he said,
adding that now that Hussein’s regime is deposed, Iraqi citizens
may come forward with information.
"As we enter this phase of the Iraqi Freedom
operations, and that is the stabilization phase, the issue of
the POWs becomes paramount," al-Sabah said.
He also thanked the administration for its efforts
to "deliver the Iraqis from bondage." The minister described
Iraq as a country that had been "kidnapped" for 35 years.
"The Iraqi regime, Saddam’s regime, has basically
destroyed, ruptured the very fabric of the Iraqi society,"
he said when asked about the potential for civil unrest in Iraq.
"Decent people have been tortured, killed and exiled. It
would take a long time, I think, some time for the healing process
to take a hold in Iraq."
Still, al-Sabah added, it’s up to the Iraqis now
"to settle down and to form their own government."
Regarding Syria, Rumsfeld said the United States
has seen chemical weapons tests in that country "over the
past 12 (to) 15 months." He also said intelligence reports
show Syria has allowed fighters to cross that country’s border
with Iraq. Other evidence shows Syria has allowed Iraqis into
Syria, "in some cases to stay, in some cases to transit."
The secretary described Syrians crossing the Iraqi
border "carrying leaflets indicating that they’ll be rewarded
if they kill Americans and members of the coalition."
Rumsfeld’s comments on Syria echo those made earlier
by Secretary of State Colin Powell in a separate press conference
"We are concerned that Syria has been participating
in the development of weapons of mass destruction, … specifically
of chemical weapons," Powell said. "And we believe,
in light of this new environment, they should review their actions
and their behavior – not only with respect to whom gets
haven in Syria and weapons of mass destruction, but especially
the support of terrorist activity."
In his earlier press conference, Powell described
a meeting to be held in Nasiriyah, Iraq, April 15 to discuss the
future of that country. He said that this "first of many
meetings" will be led by U.S. ambassadors Zal Khalilzad,
the president’s personal representative to Iraq, and Ryan Crocker,
the former ambassador to Kuwait.
Powell called the meeting "a good start"
and said it would reflect the views of Iraqi expatriates who have
been working for the country’s liberation from outside Iraq and
"those that are now free inside" Iraq.