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SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ

Kuwait Plans to Close Off Northern Half of Country

February 05, 2003|From Reuters

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwaiti officials said Tuesday that they will close the northern half of the country bordering Iraq beginning Feb. 15 to allow their military to step up training to defend against any attack from Baghdad.

"No one will be allowed to enter these regions after this date without official permission from the army," Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Ahmad Mulla said. "It's about 50%" of the country's land area, he added.

The announcement followed weeks of U.S. military exercises in northern Kuwait amid preparations for a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

Kuwait's armed forces would not participate in any incursion into Iraq, diplomats say, but would concentrate on defending the country, which holds almost 10% of the world's oil reserves.

The southern edge of the restricted area stretches east from the Salmi border post, where Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait meet, to Faylakah island.

Mulla said the restrictions ban camping and hunting in the zone. People living there will need permission to remain.

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