"US troops have been here for some time ... (the size of) this presence will be decided when Iraqis form their own government," Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad told the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

 

"The US (military) presence will continue on the basis" of the defense pact signed between Kuwait and Washington after the 1991 Gulf War in which US-led forces liberated Kuwait from seven months of Iraqi occupation, he added.

 

Sheikh Sabah, named premier on Sunday following the unprecedented decision to split the posts of crown prince and prime minister, described US-Kuwait relations as "proceeding normally".

 

"The (defence) cooperation pact with America enabled us to contribute to liberating our brothers in Iraq," Sheikh Sabah said.

 

Staging post

 

Kuwait elections saw Sheikh Sabah
installed as the new premier

Kuwait served as the main staging post for the US-led war on Iraq which ousted Saddam in April.

 

About 10,000 US troops were based in Kuwait before the war drive, mainly at Camp Doha, north of the capital. The base was also used to stockpile heavy equipment, including tanks and artillery.

 

Tens of thousands of US and British troops were sent to Kuwait ahead of the war against Iraq. About 8,000 American civilians also reside in Kuwait.

 

The United States is the main supplier of the emirate's 12-billion-dollar rearmament drive, launched after the 1991 war.

 

Kuwait last August signed an 868-million-dollar deal with the United States for the purchase of 16 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow advanced attack helicopters.

 

The emirate has also signed defence pacts with France and Britain.