Iraqis shift to fight rebels; Baghdad to return looted Kuwait riches

USA TODAY
March 6, 1991, Wednesday, FIRST EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1A
LENGTH: 361 words

Iraq Tuesday fulfilled two more U.N. conditions for a permanent cease-fire in the Persian Gulf war – including a promise to return Kuwaiti assets such as gold.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein is moving troops from the north to fight for control of dissent-ridden southern cities.

And Iraq said it has now freed all allied POWs after releasing 35 more Tuesday.

State Department spokesman Margaret Tutwiler said the government may have ”restored control” in a few areas.

Guard tank units were said to be taking control of the southern city of Basra after exchanging machine-gun fire with regular army elements.

But civil unrest outside Baghdad raged Tuesday:

– Jalal Talabani, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader, said Kurdish rebels still held the northern provincial capital of Erbil and nearby towns.

– Fighting continued in Shiite holy cities Najaf, Karbala.

– The Iraqi News Agency said ”angry people” stormed Abu Ghoreib prison near Baghdad, freeing political prisoners.

In Washington, Rear Adm. Mike McConnell, Pentagon intelligence director, said Saddam likely would be able to quell the unrest now as he moves troops around. But longterm, he ”may be sowing the seeds of his own destruction.”

The administration plans to steer clear and wants others to do the same. Anti-Saddam Shiite groups operate out of Iran.

On U.N. cease-fire terms, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said ”gold, quantities of Kuwaiti banknotes, the museum’s stocks (and) civilian aircraft” will be returned.

And Iraq’s Revolutionary Council rescinded the annexation of Kuwait. But Kuwaiti and U.S. officials insist it must be revoked by the National Assembly, which adopted the original resolution.

In Baghdad, 15 U.S. military personnel, including the second female POW, were among the prisoners released.

”We’re hoping it’s all of them … but we don’t know,” said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. Still missing are 28 U.S. troops. Also:

– Israel will receive $ 650 million in emergency U.S. aid.

– The war will cost less than $ 70 billion; the U.S. bill will be $ 15 billion if foreign commitments are met, said budget director Richard Darman.