US occupying administrator Paul Bremer said on Friday that out of Iraq’s total debt of $200 billion, Baghdad owed $98 billion in reparations to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for losses during Iraq’s occupation of the emirate from 1990 to 1991.

“This is some kind of (US) pressure on Kuwait…The issue of the reparations is something that concerns the impacted countries and the United Nations,” said MP Yusif al-Zalzalah in remarks carried by a Kuwaiti newspaper on Sunday.

Al-Zalzalah said the demand was “unacceptable”.

Bremer said “it is curious to me to have a country whose (annual) per capita income GDP is about $800…pay reparations to a country whose per-capita GDP is a factor of 10 times that” for a war which all Iraqis now in power opposed.

US-led forces ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991. Iraq also launched missiles into Saudi territory.

Baghdad subsequently agreed to pay compensation for  the damage it caused. Some revenue from Iraq’s UN oil-for-food programme went towards payment of reparations.

US debt demands

“If Bremer is so concerned about per capita income he has to demand dropping all of the United States of America's debts on poor nations where per capita incomes don’t exceed $30 a year,” MP Daif Allah Buramiya told the daily Arab Times.

Despite some warming of relations between Kuwait and Iraq since US troops ousted former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in April, bilateral ties remain strained.

“The Iraqi occupation happened, so the past political leadership or the one that follows it must bear responsibility for that occupation,” said MP Khalid al-Adwa.

Another deputy, Walid al-Tabtabai, said Kuwait had taken a risk by opening its airspace and land to be the springboard for US-led forces to launch the war against Iraq in March.