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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Iraq to return Kuwaiti loot
Iraqi troops
Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait for seven months
Iraq is to start returning Kuwaiti national archives looted by its army during the occupation of the Gulf emirate 12 years ago, a United Nations official has said.

UN envoy Richard Foran, in Baghdad, said he expected the operation to begin within weeks.

Speaking after a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, he said: "The Iraqi officials have been extremely helpful and they have indicated that they would co-operate in every possible way."

Kuwait says that during Iraq's seven-month occupation, between 1990 and 1991, its troops took archives from the foreign ministry, the prime minister's office and other government departments.

A significant quantity of military hardware and valuable pieces from the Islamic and National Museums are also said to have gone missing.

Positive step

An agreement to return the Kuwaiti archive documents is reported to have been reached at talks in Vienna between Iraq and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last month.

The talks failed in their principal objective - to convince Baghdad to allow the return of international weapons inspectors.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has still not allowed weapons inspectors into Iraq
Under UN Security Council resolutions, the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War can be lifted only when inspectors are allowed in to confirm that Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction and the long range missiles to deliver them.

The Iraqis did, subsequently, write to the United Nations offering the return of the inspectors.

The UN has demanded unconditional access for its inspectors - a request which Iraq has not yet answered.

Mr Foran said the return of the looted property to Kuwait was a positive step towards normalising relations between the two countries, which have had no diplomatic or other relations since the war.

He will travel on to Kuwait in a few days after meeting other Iraqi ministers.


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