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Public Papers - 1991

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on the Extinguishing of the Last of Kuwait's Burning Oil Wells


Today we celebrate with the people and the Government of Kuwait as they complete a major step along the road to recovery. The extinguishing of the last of Kuwait's burning oil wells represents a remarkable achievement. In less than 9 months, a unique international coalition capped nearly 700 wells, reversing Saddam's cruel efforts to achieve with sabotage what he could not do with his military: The destruction of Iraq's peaceful neighbor and the fouling of an entire region in an act of mass ecological terrorism.

Upon the liberation of Kuwait last March, the President directed U.S. agencies to come to Kuwait's assistance in tackling the disaster perpetrated by Saddam's retreating army, Seven hundred and fifty-two of the country's 1,037 oil wells had been damaged, and 610 were burning. Working closely with the Government of Kuwait, the United States lent vital support in engineering, transport, and other areas, support which was critical to the success in extinguishing the blazing wells. We are delighted to have been partners in every phase of the firefighting effort. We are particularly proud that three of the first four teams on the ground in March were American. It was these teams that laid the groundwork for the success that followed. American teams capped over half of the damaged wells in the effort that grew eventually to include firefighters from 28 countries.

We share Kuwait's joy and salute the brave men and women who met this historic challenge. We support Kuwait's demand for just compensation by Iraq for these and other war-related damages, and we remain determined to stand with Kuwait and others against Saddam and his policies.

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