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Iraq Begins Returning Stolen Kuwaiti Documents - 2002-10-20

As part of its effort to get U.N.-imposed sanctions lifted, Iraq has begun returning tens of thousands of documents and other materials stolen when Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990.

Under U.N. supervision, the handover of the stolen material began along the Iraq-Kuwait border.

Five truckloads of documents and items ranging from museum pieces to military gear are parked in Safwan, Iraq. A smaller truck was loaded with five boxes and crossed the border to hand over the first of the archives to waiting Kuwaiti officials.

Saturday, U-N envoy Richard Foran shuttled across the border to work out the details of the transfer. Arab League monitors also participated.

The process is expected to take weeks or even months as Kuwaiti officials check the contents of each box.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Iraqi officials gave Kuwait a detailed list of the archives to be returned.

The archives were looted from Kuwait's Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, and National Security and other Kuwaiti agencies during Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.

For 12 years Kuwait has been demanding the return of the materials, but not until July did Iraq agree during negotiations with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The return of the stolen items is one of the conditions for lifting U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed against Iraq following the Gulf War.

Kuwait is also determined to resolve the fate of about 600 Kuwaitis and other nationals missing since the Iraqi invasion. Baghdad insists it has released all war prisoners and has accused Kuwait of not cooperating to determine the fate of more than one-thousand Iraqis missing since the Gulf War.