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Iraq and Kuwait still going at it

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Iraq and Kuwait still going at it Empty Iraq and Kuwait still going at it

Post  Shilo on Sun May 16, 2010 7:51 am

May 15, 2010 · Posted in NEWS
Posted on Fri, May. 14, 2010
Iraq and Kuwait still going at it
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

A fierce legal fight between the national airlines of Iraq and Kuwait has revived deep resentments that have been simmering since Saddam Hussein first sent his army into oil-rich, neighboring Kuwait back in 1990.

The dispute has been playing out in British courts since soon after the end of the first Gulf War, with Kuwait Airways claiming it is owed $1.2 billion by Iraqi Airways for 10 aircraft and spare parts that were looted during the occupation by Iraqi forces.

Lawyers representing Kuwait have accused Iraq of perjury, forgery and a general perversion of the justice system. In turn, Kuwait has been accused of exploiting Iraq’s instability and being insensitive to the suffering of the Iraqi people.

The dispute resurfaced April 25 when the first Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to London in more than 20 years was met at Gatwick Airport by lawyers representing Kuwait Airway armed with an injunction issued by a British court. The authorities confiscated the passport of Iraqi Airways director Kifah Hassan Jabbar, and impounded the aircraft, which had been leased from a Swedish company.

“We are surprised by this escalation and provocation by the Kuwaiti authorities and their insistence on pursuing and harassing Iraqis when they tried to open a new window to the world and (a way) out of the suffering that they have lived through for several decades,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of Transportation.

Jabbar’s papers were eventually returned after he promised to provide the British court with a complete accounting of Iraqi Airway’s assets. Until then, any of the airline’s assets in British banks will remain frozen.

“Iraqi Airways has agreed to make available an official statement of global assets. They want to freeze all Iraqi Airways assets, but Iraqi Airways has no assets. It is very simple. So, there is no case,” said Saad al-Khafaji, a senior official with Iraqi Airways.

“Frankly, where I’m sitting the claim of having no assets just doesn’t ring true,” said Chris Gooding, a lawyer representing Kuwait Airways.

“They are operating flights to England and Sweden and other places on a regular basis and they are presently re-fleeting to the tune of billions of dollars,” he said, referring to Iraqi Airway’s pending purchase of 47 new aircraft from the United States and Canada.

All parties agree that Iraq’s refusal in the past to deal with Kuwait’s demands has allowed the dispute to escalate into the current crisis.

“Whenever the Kuwaitis made a claim in court and we didn’t respond, the court ruled in favor of the Kuwaitis,” Khafaji said. “The reparation demand didn’t exceed $200 million in 2000, but it has doubled and doubled until it has now reached $1.2 billion. That was a big mistake on our part; otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this large amount,” Khafaji said.

Iraqi officials have repeatedly claimed they have made restitution offers and pledges of friendship only to be rebuffed. Some have said it was unfair that Iraq be held accountable for the actions of the former regime.

“The Kuwait Airways issue has been exaggerated by the Kuwaitis, who have attached political dimensions to the case. Kuwait has to respect the will of the Iraqi people and stop taking advantage of the circumstances in Iraq for the purpose of retribution,” said Adnan Bilaibl, director of Iraq’s civil aviation authority.

“What Kuwait is doing is unjustified and this needs to be stopped because things are getting dangerous,” he added.

The danger of escalation was on display at Baghdad International Airport in April when hundreds of demonstrators carrying signs reading “Stop sucking the blood of Iraqis with your so-called compensation” turned up to protest Kuwait’s demands.

“The issue has become seriously dangerous,” Hassan Shaban, a Baghdad- based legal analyst, said. “If there is no agreement between Iraqis and Kuwaitis, it must come through intervention by the Arab League or United Nations. This case can’t go on like this, or it will deeply damage the future of aviation in Iraq just as it is beginning to recover.”

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