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Iraq to Turn Over Seized Kuwaiti Documents - 2002-05-04

Iraq is ready to hand back to Kuwait important documents it seized during its invasion of Kuwait 12 years ago. The gesture appears aimed at improving ties between the two countries.

Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef said the Iraqi decision to return Kuwait's national archives is the result of long months of Arab diplomacy, including a trip to Baghdad in January by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

"Iraq decided to look into the matter, and they found out large quantities of documents that they decided to return to Kuwait. The Arab League will be receiving all the documents from Iraq and we will have the proper procedures in order to receive these documents and deliver them to the government of Kuwait," Mr. Youssef said.

He said the delivery could take place "within weeks."

In statements to Arabic news agencies, Kuwait's foreign ministry welcomes the return of the archives. It wants the delivery of the material to also be supervised by the United Nations.

The archives are among other Kuwaiti property missing since Baghdad invaded that country in 1990. Seven months later, it was driven out by a U.S. led coalition force. Iraq has been under strict international trade sanctions since then for failing to prove it is free of weapons of mass destruction.

Mustapha Kamel al Sayid is a professor of political science at Cairo University. He said recent U.S. threats of military action may have influenced Baghdad to appear more cooperative toward solving disputes over its 1990 invasion which led to the 1991 Gulf War.

"I think the Iraqi government is taking these threats from the U.S. seriously, and is trying to remove any pretext that the U.S. administration could take in order to justify military action," Mr. al Sayid said.

He said that many Arabs believe the U.S. is intent on striking Iraq despite Baghdad's overtures to Kuwait.