- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

From combined dispatches

KUWAIT CITY Kuwait offered its military bases to American forces yesterday in a U.N.-backed campaign against Iraq, a boost to the Bush administration coming one day after Saudi Arabia suggested that it would put its bases off-limits to U.S. troops.

"They are here in our bases. … They are here. How can they not use them?" Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah told reporters yesterday, speaking about American troops.

"If there is a Security Council resolution, they will be used," said Sheik Sabah, who also serves as deputy prime minister.

His comments came as the United States began a fresh bid for consensus in the U.N. Security Council to authorized force against Iraq.

Just one day earlier, the Saudi foreign minister said the United States should not count on using his nation's bases.

"We will abide by the decision of the United Nations Security Council, and we will cooperate with the Security Council. But as to entering the conflict or using facilities … that is something else," Prince Saud al Faisal told CNN.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that after looking at Prince Saud's remarks and subsequent contacts between the United States and the Saudis, Washington had not concluded that Riyadh had ruled out the use of Saudi bases.

Kuwait, in making its offer yesterday, said it required backing from the United Nations.

It also said its armed forces would not take part in an operation against Iraq.

Sheik Sabah said U.S. forces deployed in Kuwait would be able to use the facilities under a joint-defense pact with Washington, which has governed the presence of U.S. troops in the oil-rich state since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Since the Gulf war, Kuwait has signed defense pacts with all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: Russia, the United States, Britain, France and China.

Sheik Sabah said Kuwait supported a tough U.S.- and British-sponsored draft resolution on disarming Iraq.

The United States has been pouring military hardware into the region, particularly Kuwait, in recent months in apparent preparation for a war on Iraq, but officials insist it is for an intensified training program.

U.S. forces are deployed in the desert, in two Kuwaiti air bases, in Camp Doha, and on the outskirts of Kuwait City, and are expected soon to use a new base being readied in the south of the country.

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