Originally created 02/04/03

Iraq returns documents, artifacts looted in occupation of Kuwait



KUWAIT CITY -- Iraq on Monday returned to Kuwait more documents and artifacts - including an oil painting, carpets, photographs and swords - that were looted by its forces during the invasion of its oil-rich neighbor in 1990, U.N. observers said.

Kuwaiti officials crossed the border into Iraq to retrieve the items, which also included microfilm and documents, Daljeet Bagga, the spokesman of the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission, told The Associated Press.

Baghdad started giving back Kuwaiti documents in October, saying they were part of the national archives, but Kuwaiti officials complained no valuable documents were among the papers.

"The atmosphere was cordial, cooperative and friendly," Bagga said, adding that the Kuwaiti delegation accepted the materials after giving them a "general kind of inspection."

Kuwaiti officials could not be reached immediately for comment on the return of the materials, which comes as the Bush administration prepares for a possible war with Iraq.

The return of archival documents and national treasures is a requirement for the lifting of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq for the invasion.

A requirement that Iraq dismantle its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is at the heart of U.S. threats of military action against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Kuwait has been demanding the return of archival documents and national treasures since the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation.

In July, Baghdad agreed to return through the United Nations documents its forces took from the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, national security agency and other offices.

The border between Kuwait and Iraq has been closed since the end of the war and ties between the two Arab countries have been severed.