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Iraqis face trial for Bush 'murder plot'

THE KUWAITI authorities are to put 11 Iraqis and three Kuwaitis on trial in the state security court on 5 June on charges of trying to assassinate the former US president George Bush during a visit to Kuwait in April.

US officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service, responsible for guarding past and present presidents, are in Kuwait questioning the suspects. US counter- terrorism officials insist that the affair 'is still being treated as an extremely serious matter'.

'When the investigations are complete, the result will be passed on to the Department of Justice,' a spokeswoman for the FBI said yesterday.

The insistence of both the State Department and the FBI that investigations were continuing seemed to give the lie to unconfirmed reports at the weekend quoting Defense Department sources that the Kuwaiti investigators had been so heavy-handed in their interrogation of the suspects that their confessions were unreliable. The Pentagon would make no comment, referring all enquiries to the State Department.

The timing of those reports, however, were politically embarassing. For any reports, however dubious, that the United States lacked faith in the Kuwaiti commitment to a fair trial would only undermine the close relationship both countries want.

The Kuwaiti Prosecutor-General, Mohammed Abdul Hai al-Banai, said all the suspects had confessed to a plot to blow up Mr Bush with a car bomb. The back-up plan was for one of the group, Wali al-Ghazali, to strap explosives to his body and blow himself up.

Mr Banai called the accused 'criminals who allied with the devil and conspired with him to try to assault Kuwait's honoured guest. 'They tried to shake the stability and security of the country and stab its international reputation and the safety and peace of mind enjoyed by the people,' he said.

'Investigations proved without doubt that it was the Iraqi intelligence system which moved this rotten group of accused persons to execute the plans of the treacherous Iraqi regime, which still has its criminal tendency and hatred for the state of Kuwait.'

Nearly 10 years ago, Kuwait had another experience of suicide car bombers. Then it was Iran which was said to have been behind the bombing of the US and French embassies by members of the Dawa Islamic group.