Kuwaitis still getting payouts for damage of 1990 Iraqi invasion

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Indy Politics

Fifteen years after the first Gulf War, and three years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a UN commission is still paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to the victims of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The latest payments, totalling $417.8m (£220m), were made yesterday to governments and oil companies for losses and damages stemming from the Kuwaiti occupation, bringing the total paid out to more than $21bn (£11bn). The total claims that have been approved run to $52bn (£27.5bn) and will take many more years to complete.

The transfers by the Geneva-based Compensation Commission are not the only hangover from the Saddam era to be funded by Iraqi oil revenues. The UN weapons inspectors, now known as UNMOVIC, have never been wound up by the Security Council and still have $114m in their coffers - despite $200m having been shifted from their escrow account in June last year into the Iraq development fund. That was only months after $9bn went missing from the development fund.

The 34 arms monitors are still contracted to ensure the disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Until the 15-member Security Council tells them to stop, or decides to use their expertise in another way, they are continuing to produce a three-monthly disarmament report.

"Every three months we go to the council, and they wring their hands and move on to the next piece of business," said one inspector.

Saddam's forces rolled into Kuwait in August 1990 at the start of a seven-month occupation which ended with the Iraqi soldiers blowing up Kuwait oilfields and pouring 10 million barrels of oil into the sea, causing an environmental disaster.

The final deadline for most compensation claims passed in 1997, but missing persons claims and those stemming from landmine or ordnance explosions were subsequently accepted by the Geneva-based UN Compensation Commission. It has received more than 2.6 million claims since 1991, totalling $368bn, seeking compensation for deaths, damage and losses.

Despite the overthrow of Saddam, the Security Council decided in June 2003 that the fund should not be frozen but would receive 5 per cent of all Iraqi oil and gas and petroleum products export sales.

Initial payments went to individuals and have now all been processed.

Yesterday's pay-outs, which included environmental claims, went to corporations, international organisations and the governments of Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US.

The largest amount - $335.5m - went to Kuwait to pay for 38 claims, while the US was paid $10m for a single claim.

The proportion of corporations which have claimed damages from the occupation was not known, but the commission has received $44bn worth of compensation claims from oil companies with operations in the Persian Gulf.

The governments listed for yesterday's transfer had filed claims covering their costs in evacuating nationals from Kuwait, providing relief aid, damage to diplomatic property and harm to the environment.

Other claims include damage to government buildings, loss of equipment as well as estimates of the value of work carried out by contractors before the invasion.

The commission has also received 170 environmental claims stemming from the oil fires and the discharge of oil into the sea, that total $80bn.

* The number of US troops killed in Iraq in October reached the highest monthly total in a year yesterday after four marines and a sailor died after being injured while fighting in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, where the insurgency is strongest.

The Pentagon said 96 US troops have died so far in October, the same number that died in October 2005. The highest monthly death toll prior to that came in January 2005, when 107 US troops were killed.