CAIRO — Egyptian and Syrian troops will be stationed in Kuwait and other areas of the Persian Gulf as part of a postwar regional peace force in exchange for billions of dollars in economic aid from the oil-rich Arab nations, diplomatic sources said Saturday.
The arrangement was reached during a weekend meeting of the foreign ministers of most of the Arab nations supporting the American-led coalition in the war against Iraq: Egypt and Syria, and the members of the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Another member of the anti-Iraq coalition, Morocco, did not attend out of concern for the overwhelming pro-Iraqi sentiment of its people.
According to one Gulf state diplomat, who asked not to be identified, a still-to-be-decided number of Syrian and Egyptian troops will stay in the region to ensure that Iraq--or any other nation--does not try to "take advantage of the postwar confusion to gain new territory or establish dominance in the region."
"We want to ensure that the nations in the region provide our own security and that order and stability are established without the United States and other Western nations," the diplomat said.
In fact, he added, "the agreement will allow the Western forces to be withdrawn in the shortest time possible."
In exchange, Syria and Egypt, neither of which have major oil industries, will receive massive aid from the big Gulf oil producers.
"If we are going to have full cooperation and military security, the wealthy nations are going to have to pay those other nations who provide the security," another diplomat said.
Diplomats said that the foreign ministers framed the outline of a regional economic development fund totaling about $15 billion to "reconstruct the economies of the area and to pay for security," as one official put it.
No figures for Syria and Egypt were known, but an Egyptian official said that a large share of the development fund would go to his country and Syria--"several billions of dollars," in his words.
The ministers issued a formal statement Saturday that dealt with the agreement only in general terms, but they said that another conference will be held March 5 in Damascus, Syria, to work out the details.
The communique said that in "pursuing a new spirit of Arab solidarity, the ministers considered coordination and cooperation among their countries for the stage that will follow the liberation of Kuwait, particularly in the security, political and economic fields."
The ministers went out of their way to say that Iraq also would be included in the postwar arrangement if it renounced aggressive policies.
"Any formula worked out in this connection will be open to all Arab states willing to join so long as they adhere to the basic principles and aims governing it," the statement said.
While the size of the peacekeeping force was not disclosed, Egypt has about 38,000 troops in the Gulf region, while Syria has sent 19,000 soldiers to the area, limiting their mission to that of defending Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states against Iraqi attack.
In order to compensate for that role as well as for the future, Egypt and Syria should get "every assistance," said Qatar's foreign minister, Mubarak Ali Khatir.
The formal announcement repeated demands for an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and said the ministers feel "deep grief for the suffering of the Kuwaiti and Iraqi people resulting from the continued occupation of Kuwait and the intransigence of the Iraqi leadership."