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Kuwait Families Still Await Word of Gulf War POWs' Fate

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, April 10, 2000 – As you walk into the Kuwait POW Committee Office here, you are surrounded by memories. Memories stolen by Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War and not returned since.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Kuwaiti Defense Minister Salim al-Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah visited the office April 9 to highlight the plight of Kuwaitis still waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones.

During the occupation of Kuwait, Iraqi soldiers took thousands of prisoners. Following the coalition victory, the International Committee of the Red Cross repatriated 6,272 while another 500 "repatriated themselves."

But 605 people never returned. Of these, 570 were Kuwaitis and 35 were Indian, Bahrani, Omani, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Saudi residents of Kuwait. One display at the office contains individual pictures of these men and women. The pictures are behind a locked door and surmounted by razor wire.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 686, passed at the end of the Gulf War, called for Iraq to release all prisoners

"This exhibit is a poignant reminder of the pain the families still feel and suffer and the dedication by all concerned for a full accounting of the POWs, something the United States feels very committed to," Cohen said. He told reporters that during his recent visit to Vietnam, full accounting of missing Americans still has "a high-level of priority in dealing with Vietnam."

He said the United States would continue to insist that Saddam Hussein fully comply with the Security Council resolution calling for the prisoners' return. "It is an outrage that he has not complied," Cohen said.

Since the end of the war, Iraq submitted incomplete preliminary information on 126 of the 605 cases. They returned one set of remains to Kuwait, and one live missing person was found and returned.

The Iraqis have not cooperated since Operation Desert Fox in November 1998.

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