Iraq reassures neighbours on borders

The president of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has reassured neighbouring Kuwait and Jordan Baghdad has no territorial ambitions.

    Abd al-Hamid has denied making the controversial comments

    Recent remarks by current council president Muhsin Abd al-Hamid caused enough

    concern in the two countries to make Kuwait demand an official clarification

    and for Jordan to consider one.

    Press reports quoted Abd al-Hamid as saying in Baghdad on Saturday that

    this was not the right time to discuss territorial issues with other Arab

    countries, but that Iraq may do so in the future.

    He was reportedly

    responding to a question about "lands that were torn away from Iraq, such as

    Jordan and Kuwait".

    "I was asked during a meeting held by Baghdad municipality council about

    some territories given by the former regime to Jordan," Abd al-Hamid said in

    a statement on Sunday.

    'Distorted' remarks

    "My answer was that the Governing Council has never thought about such a

    thing because we want to have the best relations with our brethren

    neighbouring countries now and in the future."

    Abd al-Hamid said his comments were "distorted", but his alleged remarks

    made headlines in Kuwait's seven newspapers.

    A Kuwaiti official told the Kuwait News Agency his country "followed

    those remarks with much interest and surprise" and was waiting for the

    Governing Council to clarify the comments.

    Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq invaded Kuwait and occupied it for seven months

    before a US-led coalition drove his troops out in the 1991 Gulf War.

    Although Iraqi-Kuwaiti relations resumed after another American-led force toppled

    Saddam's regime in April, Kuwaitis are wary that many in Iraq believe this

    oil-rich state was part of Iraq.

    A UN report on Iraq is due to be
    released tomorrow

    Demarcation agreement

    In Jordan, a government spokeswoman, Asma Khadir, said Amman would demand

    clarification if the "comments attributed to the current president of the

    council" were confirmed.

    However, Amman is "convinced that such remarks do not reflect the opinion

    of the council or Iraqis," Khadir added.

    In the mid-1980s Iraq and Jordan reached a border demarcation agreement

    that gave Jordan 70 square kilometers of desert land.

    While

    Jordan claimed the land as its own, many Iraqis believed Saddam gave it to

    the late King Husayn for his staunch support for Iraq during the 1980-88

    Iraq-Iran war.

    UN report

    Meanwhile, the UN secretary-general has said many issues remain to be addressed in helping to rebuild Iraq, a day before his report on a fact-finding mission there is due to be released.

    "I think the team has laid the ground work for further progress

    but there are a number of important issues and questions to be

    addressed," Kofi Annan told reporters after a one-hour meeting with Japan's Foreign

    Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in Tokyo.

    "I will release my report of the team's work in Iraq tomorrow in

    New York," he added.

    After meeting with his adviser and Iraqi mission head al-Akhdar

    al-Ibrahimi, Annan said last week that elections in Iraq before the 30 June

     handover of power were impossible.

    Japan talks

    The visiting UN head also told reporters that "international

    cooperation will be essential as we move ahead and help the Iraqi

    people regain their sovereignty and build a peaceful, democratic and

    stable Iraq".

    Annan arrived in Japan on Saturday on a five-day visit for talks with

    Japanese leaders on ways to reform the world body and help war-torn

    Iraq with its reconstruction.

    He is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Junichiro

    Koizumi on Monday and deliver an address to the Japanese parliament,

    the first by a UN chief.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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