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Iraq Will Not Release Kuwaiti Worker Detained Last Week - 2002-03-21

Iraqi officials say they will not release a Kuwaiti worker who has been held in Baghdad since last week, after he reportedly entered Iraq by accident.

Iraq has released another detainee, Addul Azis Ahmad, from Egypt. But Iraqi officials have said they will not free the Kuwaiti citizen, Jassim Al Randi, until Kuwait releases Iraqi citizens that it is holding.

Kuwait's state minister for foreign affairs, Mohammad Sabah Al Sabah, said his country is not holding any Iraqis. He said the statement from Baghdad is "a frivolous accusation and an outrageous lie." He also said Iraqis who mistakenly enter Kuwait are mostly shepherds who are returned to Iraq with the help of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait observer mission.

Iraqi border police stopped the Kuwaiti and Egyptian men last Friday. They were traveling through a demilitarized zone with a visiting Venezuelan delegation that was on its way to meet Venezuelan soldiers serving with the U.N. mission.

Iraq allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the two detained men on Saturday, after they were taken from the southern border area to Baghdad.

In turn, an Iraqi foreign minister called on Kuwait to allow the Red Cross to visit any Iraqi prisoners being held in Kuwait. Kuwait said it welcomes any Red Cross visit.

The Egyptian man who was detained was the driver for the Venezuelan delegation. He was released Wednesday after what an Iraqi spokesman called the good offices exerted by the secretary-general of the Arab League.

The U.N. mission has been patrolling the Kuwait-Iraq border and a 15-kilometer demilitarized zone since the end of the Gulf War, which ended Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.