Saddam apologizes to Kuwait

Iraq apologizes for 1990-1991 occupation of Kuwait

More than 12 years after his army invaded their country, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has apologized to Kuwaitis and has asked them to join Iraq in resisting foreign occupation.

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf appeared on Iraqi television Saturday and read a letter from Saddam to Iraq's neighbour.

"We apologize to God for any act that has angered Him in the past and that has been held against us, and we apologize to you (the Kuwaitis) on the same basis," one translation of the letter read.

Saddam said he was apologizing to set the record straight, not out of weakness.

"Brother, what we wish for you is the same as we endeavour to do for your brothers in Iraq namely, for you to live free without foreigners controlling your destiny, will, decisions, wealth, present and future..."

Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, a move that sparked the Gulf War, ending when U.S.-led forces drove the Iraqi army out in Februrary 1991.

The U.S. military is currently using Kuwait as a base for training exercises, something the Iraqi government spoke out against Saturday. It claims Kuwait is now under military occupation by the roughly 12,000 American soldiers in the country.

The statement urged "the holy warriors in Kuwait" to meet with their counterparts in Iraq, not to align themselves with London or Washington and to fight "against the occupation of infidel armies."

Kuwait rejects apology

Kuwait dismissed Saddam's statement as nothing more than an attempt to bully the country into ending ties with Washington.

"Regrettably, the speech contained words to which we would rather not stoop and respond," Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah told the Kuwait News Agency late Saturday night.

"He must apologize to the Iraqi people first for dragging them into wars that wasted their resources and apologize to the State of Kuwait by telling the truth and returning the prisoners (captured during the 1990 invasion)."

As-Sabah said Saddam's sole purpose was to build up opposition to the United States.

"This is a speech aimed at inciting Kuwaitis to attack Americans and at threatening Kuwait for co-operating with America," he said. "The speech contained incitement and encouragement of terrorist acts which the whole world has rejected and condemned."