KUWAIT (Reuters) - The American leaders who led the war to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991 pledged on the 10th anniversary on Monday that the United States would continue to guard the oil-rich Gulf emirate from any Iraqi aggression. 

At a ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Kuwait, Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) said: ``Ours was a noble cause. It still is and we stand together again in that cause today as coalition members still pledged to guard against aggression.'' 

Honoring the U.S. troops who died in the war, he said: ''We...renew our commitment to the noble cause for which they fought, renew our determination that evil will not prosper, that freedom will live and breathe in this part of the world.'' 

Powell, who was chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff during the Gulf War (news - web sites), said that while Kuwait was free and prosperous, ``Iraq the aggressor sits stranded, trapped in a prison of its own making.'' 

``Its people and children (are) put at risk by a regime which also puts at risk the people and children of the entire region by threatening to rebuild its army and manufacture weapons of mass destruction. 

``We want the world to know that our quarrel is not with the people of Iraq. It is with the regime in Baghdad. We look forward to the day when Iraq may be welcomed again into the family of nations and its people is free and that day will utlimately come,'' he added. 

George Bush, who was U.S. president at the time of the war and is father of current President George W. Bush (news - web sites), said: ``The United States will never let Kuwait down. We are never going to betray our responsibilities to continue to help preserve the peace of Kuwait. We fought too hard, too many died.'' 

Bush said he and General Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of allied forces in the Gulf War, were impressed by joint maneuvers by U.S. and Kuwait forces in the desert on Sunday. 

``The master man in Baghdad (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)), I wish he had been to see this. It might not have toned down his rhetoric but if he had any idea that he can fight again and do anything different than get clobbered in the sands of Kuwait, he would have changed his mind,'' he added. 

``So I would simply say to those Kuwait soldiers: 'You're not alone, you never will be','' Bush said. 

Bush, Powell and Scharzkopf laid a wreath at a memorial to about 300 U.S. service men and women who died during the war and during the long preparations. 

Powell is on a Middle East tour aimed at rebuilding support for sanctions against Iraq but the absence of Arab leaders from Kuwait's celebrations showed how far the alliance has crumbled.