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Public Papers - 1991 - February

Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Ambassador Nasir Al-Sabah of Kuwait

1991-02-28

The Ambassador. When we saw the Kuwaiti flag with the Stars and Stripes flying together, it was just so touching.

The President. It was very moving. And I'll tell you, I had a telegram from General Boomer, who is the -- I'd like to show that. Get Patti to bring me, if you would, the telegram from General Boomer of the Marine Corps who went into Kuwait yesterday. Because Americans are -- I've been very touched by the warmth of reception.

Let me -- I've violated my own rules of not taking -- I won't violate the question rule, but I do want to make just a comment, and then I'd welcome a comment from you. But before I say what's on my heart about Kuwait, I want to announce here today that the Iraqi Government has now agreed to designate military commanders to meet with coalition counterparts to arrange for the military aspects of this cease-fire, something we called for yesterday.

They have come back now. We will promptly go back to them with the arrangements, where and when. It will be very soon. We will appoint high-level representatives from our military to meet with them. And obviously, the subjects will include -- it will be a wide array of subjects. The one that's amongst foremost in my heart is the question of our prisoners of war. And we expect a prompt repatriation of them, the Kuwaiti detainees, and others.

The second subject, but the one that brings the Ambassador here, is a chance to tell him how pleased we Americans are that his country is free, and we're very pleased to have had a major role in it.

The Ambassador. If I might just say a few words, Mr. President, words that are from my heart and from the hearts of every Kuwaiti, addressed to our friends in the United States, and especially to you, Mr. President.

On behalf of the Amir and the people of liberated, free, and independent Kuwait, I wish to extend to you, Mr. President, personally and to the people of the United States, to the Secretary of Defense and to the Secretary of State, to General Powell, General Schwarzkopf, and to all the young men and women who have served in Desert Storm, and to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and to all our coalition allies who have joined in Desert Storm, our deep sense of appreciation and gratification for what you have done for us in liberating our country.

There isn't, I believe, a more precious gift that could be given to people than their freedom and their liberty and their homeland. And, Mr. President, you have done this. And you'll go down in history as the great liberator of my country. Your resolve, your determination for freedom, for liberty, and for humanity is unprecedented since the 2d of August when this brutal invasion took place.

I remember, Mr. President, meeting with you here on the 8th of August, and from that meeting I knew in my heart when I saw it in your eyes that you were determined not to let that aggression stand. And we are deeply grateful to you and to our friend the United States for all that you have done.

And our hearts go also to the families of the victims that have lost their lives bravely in Operation Desert Storm. Our condolences to them. They have not died in vain. And we hope and pray to God that they may rest in peace. And we wish you all, our friends in the United States and our coalition forces, the best.

And Mr. President, I hope sooner rather than later we will welcome you and welcome all our friends in liberated Kuwait. Thank you.

The President. Mr. Ambassador, I appreciate what you said. And it's a very emotional time. But I just sent for this telegram that I'll share with you, but I will just say here that it's a telegram from General Boomer of the Marine Corps who led a group of our marines into Kuwait. And the emotion that he felt, I feel. The warmth of the reception that our marines and that the Saudi troops and the Kuwaiti troops returning there got was just unbelievable. And it makes everything worthwhile.

And I want to say I'm very grateful to you for your most generous words. But you and I both know it was the privates and the sergeants and first lieutenants and the generals that deserve the credit. They showed the courage; they showed the steadfast commitment to your independence and your freedom.

And as I conclude this photo opportunity, let me say that it seems very fitting that your son is here, as the future of Kuwait. And now they have a much better shot at a wonderful, free, and challenging future. And we're very proud that that generation has their hope restored.

Persian Gulf Conflict Resolution

Q. Sir, did Iraq agree to all allied conditions?

Q. When are these men going to meet, do you know?

The President. We don't have a set time yet, but it will be very soon.

Q. Did Iraq agree to all allied conditions, the prisoners of war -- --

The President. We don't know that yet, but we know what they're talking about at the United Nations. But they will agree to all of it.

Q. Should Saddam Hussein be prosecuted for war crimes, sir?

The President. We're not going to get into that. These matters will all be discussed in appropriate forums. We've got a United Nations track, diplomatic track going forward, and we have the military track that will go forward. And so, I'll leave those matters to our experts to work out.

Q. But just to be clear, have they agreed to the February 22 demands, conditions?

The President. We will -- let's wait and see how these meetings unfold to what they've agreed to. They have met this one condition, which is very good, and they met it promptly, and that is that we are going to get together and send high-level military representatives. And we are going to get back our POW's, and we are going to do it fast. And we've got a few other matters of urgent concern that will be resolved fairly and in keeping with the determination that our fighting forces have showed.

Q. Sir, where will the meeting be held?

The President. Have not set a place yet. I really have told you about all I know about the logistics on it. But we're very pleased that it is going to go forward. And once again, it is a special day, and, Ambassador, I just can't tell you what's in my heart, but I am very pleased, very proud that your country is free.

Q. Where did you hear it from? The U.N.?

The President. I refer you to the proper authorities on that. They're across at the State Department.

Thank you, Miss Thomas [Helen Thomas, United Press International], for your interest.

Note: The Ambassador spoke at 3:15 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. The following persons were referred to: Lt. Gen. Walter E. Boomer, commander general of the I Marine Expeditionary Forces (Forward) in the Persian Gulf; Patricia Presock, Deputy Assistant to the President; Amir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah of Kuwait; Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney; Secretary of State James A. Baker III; Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf; King Fahd bin `Abd al-`Aziz Al Sa`ud of Saudi Arabia; Nawaf al-Sabah, the Ambassador's son; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

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