President Saddam Hussein on Saturday apologized to the Kuwaiti people for his invasion of their tiny country in 1990, saying he was not speaking from weakness but a desire to set the record straight.
In a speech read on national television by the Iraqi information minister, Saddam outlined the events that led to the invasion and said:
"We apologize to God about any act that has angered him in the past and that was held against us, and we apologize to you (the Kuwaitis) on the same basis."
He said that in 1989, he had tried to reach a peaceful settlement of Iraq's dispute with Kuwait, but that the neighboring Gulf country's officials were not interested in negotiating.
At the time, he said, American troops were carrying out maneuvers with Kuwaiti forces, threatening Iraq.
He maintained Iraq was the victim of a conspiracy by Kuwaiti officials who were syphoning off oil along the two countries' borders that actually belonged to Iraq.
He also repeated charges that Kuwait was producing oil beyond its assigned OPEC quota, bringing down oil prices and hurting the Iraqi economy.
In the speech read by Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi leader was careful to distinguish between the Kuwaiti people and the country's leaders.
Saddam added that Iraqi officials later found documents showing the United States and Kuwaiti officials had colluded in military plans against Iraq and his country had to defend itself, leading to the invasion of Aug. 2, 1990.
"There was no hope in solving issues by diplomatic means," he said.
Excerpts from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's speech to the Kuwaiti people broadcast Saturday by Iraqi state television. The remarks were delivered in Arabic and translated by The Associated Press:
"We are saying what we are saying not out of weakness or as a tactic to an illegitimate end but to clarify facts as we see them. ... On that basis, we apologize to God for any action that may anger the Almighty if such an action took place in the past, unbeknownst to us but considered to be our responsibility, and to you (Kuwaitis) we apologize on this basis as well. O, you brothers, what we wish for is what we are working to achieve for your brothers in Iraq: to live free, without foreign control of your destiny, will, decisions, wealth, present and future."
"Kuwaiti officials said that they meet the (Iraqi) opposition for consultations. What kind of consultation is this other than conspiring against Iraq and interfering in its internal affairs under foreign supervision?
"Doesn't any Iraqi or Kuwaiti have the right to say ... why don't the believers, loyalists and holy warriors get together with their counterparts in Iraq under the tent of their creator — instead of the tent of London, Washington and the Zionist entity — to discuss first and foremost jihad against the occupying infidel armies to cleanse the shame and harm inflicted on the people of Kuwait or Iraq?"
"Our behavior was prompted by so many actions starting with the joint military maneuvers in October 1989 in Kuwait under the auspices of the Americans. Then General Schwarzkopf, in February 1990, said that there was a need to increase the American presence in the Gulf area ... and then (Kuwait's) lowering the prices of crude oil despite OPEC's warning.
"For those and other reasons, it was clear to us that danger for Iraq was in the offing and that it could not be solved through political channels. Therefore, under the framework of self protection and protecting everything that is dear, the events of Aug. 2 1990, took place."
"As you can see, the foreigners are occupying your country...and as you know, when the foreigners occupy a country, they do not only desecrate the soil but the soul, the religion and the mind."
"We and the people of Iraq salute those young believers who stand up to the foreign occupier with arms and those who see or believe that it is a shame that requires the cleansing of the land, and of the people, by fire and other means."