PM urges Kuwaitis to pull together to lift national gloom

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KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait's Prime Minister has given the nation a pep talk to lift a bout of post- Gulf war gloom and revive the slow pace of development.

Sheikh Saad al-Abdulla al-Sabah, in his first address to the people since the 1991 conflict, asked Kuwaitis to put behind them the trauma of Baghdad's 1990-91 occupation, reject what he called the insults and futile rivalries found in press and parliament and prepare themselves for struggle and sacrifice. 'I am not calling on you for forgetfulness - how can one forget treason?' he asked in a televised speech on Monday, referring to Baghdad's six-month occupation. 'But I call on you to join me in eliminating the consequences of the aggression and to recover the Kuwaiti spirit.

'Our path is the path of struggle, sacrifice and fighting hardships, but the road of freedom, pride and dignity is the road chosen by our fathers and grandfathers. It is our road today.'

Sheikh Saad said he planned to reshuffle the cabinet, strengthen security and boost the depressed economy through privatisation and state expenditure cuts. He gave no details about the reshuffle, expected within the next few weeks.

He asked Kuwaitis to rely more on themselves and less on the government, a difficult message for a 640,000 population used to cradle- to-grave welfare benefits. Kuwaitis are less than half of the 1.5 million population.

Kuwaitis say Iraq's refusal to recognise the border or to drop its territorial claim have made it difficult for Kuwaitis to put the occupation behind them.

In addition, almost every family has a member among the 500 to 600 Kuwaitis believed still held by Baghdad from the war.

Sheikh Saad had harsh words about the press, accusing it of spreading dissension that had harmed national unity. 'Their pages are full of bigotry, intellectual intimidation, insults and insolence. Their lines have become tools for the destruction of national unity,' he said.

Newspapers enjoying new freedoms following the lifting of censorship after the war have taken aim at almost all players in the country's political and economic life.