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Iraq: Oil Overproduction is Tantamount to Military Aggression

July 18, 1990 GMT

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq warned fellow OPEC members on Wednesday it viewed violations of the cartel’s production quotas as virtual acts of war, and accused neighboring Kuwait of stealing its oil for the past decade.

After meeting in emergency session, Kuwait’s National Council, or Parliament, issued a statement rejecting what it called the Iraqi ″policy of violence, threats and blackmail.″

It was the latest instance of bellicose behavior by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, although until now his muscle-flexing has been aimed mainly at Israel and its chief ally, the United States.

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The accusations also represent a dramatic escalation in Baghdad’s campaign against fellow members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries who violate production quotas.

OPEC, beset by disputes over production levels and prices, opens its mid- year meeting in Geneva next Thursday.

The collapse of oil prices, blamed largely on overproduction, has cost Iraq billions of dollars in lost revenue at a time when it was involved in the costly 1980-88 Persian Gulf war with Iran.

Kuwait, which was one of Iraq’s staunchest allies in that war, called the emergency legislative session to discuss the Iraqi accusations, and quickly began a diplomatic offensive. Iraq and Kuwait have long disagreed over their border.

Iraq’s foreign minister, Tareq Aziz, claimed Kuwait had drilled oil wells in Iraq’s southern Rumaila field and pumped oil worth $2.4 billion out of it since 1980. He said Baghdad expects Kuwait to pay it back.

″We showed patience and prudence,″ Aziz said in a letter to Arab League Secretary-General Chadli Klibi, which was read over official Baghdad Radio and on state television. ″But things have developed to a level which we can no longer ignore.″

The Iraqi foreign minister renewed Iraq’s accusations of overproduction by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and said such actions were tantamount to ″military aggression against Iraq.″

″The attempts by the governments of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to flood the oil market ... is a premeditated and deliberate plan to weaken Iraq and undermine its economy and security,″ he declared.

On Tuesday, Saddam threatened to retaliate against Kuwait and the U.A.E. with force if necessary for quota violations. Iraq has a 1 million-man army. Kuwait, with only 1.7 million residents, has 20,300 members of the armed forces.

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In Kuwait City, the emirate’s capital, the 75-member National Council legislature was called into closed-door session to discuss the Iraqi allegation.

In its statement, the interim Parliament, formed earlier this month, said Iraq should abide ″by the style of consultation, understanding and conducting dialogue ... before hastening to spread charges against Kuwait, or attempting to cast doubt on Kuwait’s national and humanitarian stands.″

The statement recalled that Kuwait had suffered at the hands of Iranian- backed terrorists for its support of Iraq in the Gulf War.

Later, Kuwait’s foreign minister, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmed, flew to Saudi Arabia, carrying a message for King Fahd. He also planned to visit other members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council that groups Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, the official Kuwait news agency reported.

Two other government ministers were dispatched to 12 other Arab League countries, including Egypt, Syria, Libya and Jordan, the news agency said.

It said Kuwait had begn a ″wide-scale campaign on the Arab level to explain its viewpoint on the Iraqi complaint against it.″

Gulf diplomatic sources, insisiting on anonymity, said Saudi Arabia was considering summoning the Gulf Cooperation Council to an emergency meeting over the issue.

The sources said King Fahd had conferred by telephone with Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, late Wednesday. Fahd was expected to lead efforts to defuse tensions.

Overproduction has helped drive prices down from the OPEC benchmark of $18 a barrel to below $14 in recent weeks.

Kuwait’s quota is 1.5 million barrels a day, but it has been producing as much as 1.9 million barrels daily. The U.A.E. has produced up to 2.1 million barrels a day in recent months, more than double its daily quota of 1.09 million barrels.

Iraq, with oil reserves estimated at 110 billion barrels, wants to eventually double its own production capacity to 7 million barrels a day and push prices up to the $25 level.

Saddam said Tuesday Iraq had lost $14 billion because of the price slump. Iraq’s foreign debt is estimated at $60 billion to $70 billion.

In recent months, Saddam has been stridently critical of the United States and its allies for what he perceives as a concerted campaign to curb his effort to build an arsenal of high-technology weapons, including long-range missiles.

He claimed in April that Iraq has binary chemical weapons and threatened to use them against Israel if it tried to attack Iraq.

Iraq and Kuwait have never agreed on the demarcation of their 80-mile border since Kuwait gained its independence from Britain in 1961. At the time, the Iraqi government of Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem refused to recognize Kuwait and the emirate called in British troops for protection.

Kassem was deposed in a February 1963 coup by the Baath Arab Socialist Party, which insisted Kuwait was part of Iraq.