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Iraq Launches Diplomatic Initiative With Saudi Arabia, Kuwait - 2002-01-17

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent his foreign minister to Bahrain as part of a diplomatic effort to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Some analysts believe Iraq is trying to prevent the U.S. from expanding its war on terrorism into Iraq.

Diplomatic observers say Iraq's foreign minister was trying to enlist the help of Bahrain in smoothing Iraq's relationship with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It was the highest level Iraqi visit to Bahrain since the 1991 Gulf war.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri al-Hadithi wants Bahrain to relay a message to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that Iraq wants to repair relations.

However, Bahraini officials told the foreign minister that Bahrain, like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, expects Iraq to comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions dealing with the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq.

U.N. inspectors, who went to Iraq after the Gulf War to monitor the destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, left in December of 1998 and have not been allowed to return.

Taha Abdel Alim is the deputy director of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, a research center for Arab studies in such areas as politics, economics and religion.

Mr. Alim has said Iraq's interest in rebuilding relationships is an attempt to forge an Arab alliance against the possibility of the U.S. expanding its war on terrorism into Iraq.

"That's understandable that they try to make some kind of support from all the Arab governments, from all the Arab countries, against any potential American attack against Iraq. But, I say, this depends on some kind of confidence building measures, which would be acceptable from Iraq and Saudi Arabia," he said.

The United States has given no indication of any American plans to attack Iraq.

Even so, on the 11th anniversary of the Gulf war, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said his country was prepared for and would foil any U.S. military attack. A massive air campaign by a US-led international coalition began on January 17, 1991 to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

In a televised speech, the Iraqi President said his country had gained experience from the Gulf war. Mr. Alim believes Saddam Hussein's comments only indicate the Iraqi leader has learned very little since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

"This means that he learned nothing from this war. The price, which has been paid by Iraqi people and the Iraqi economy and even the Arab world, was too high and without any just cause and so saying that we are ready to face another war and we will not be defeated, this is only irresponsible," he said.

On Friday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa will travel from Cairo to Baghdad. Aides to Mr. Moussa say the Secretary-General will urge President Hussein to comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions, including allowing the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq.