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Kuwait still free after 10 years

But Pentagon says Iraq still not living up to cease-fire

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WASHINGTON — Ten years after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, international efforts have kept Kuwait a free country and kept Saddam Hussein from threatening other neighbors, according to the Defense Department.

But Pentagon officials say Iraq is still not living up to the cease-fire agreement it signed at the end of the war to oust it from Kuwait.

Ten years ago Wednesday, Iraqi President Saddam sent his troops to conquer neighboring Kuwait and set in motion the events that led to the 1991 gulf war, won by a U.S.-led coalition, and to the deployment of U.S. troops that continues today.

"Kuwait is free. It's rebuilt. It has a thriving economy," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Tuesday when asked what has been accomplished by the decadelong effort. "Iraq is contained. It has a broken economy. It is an isolated state.

"I think that's the fundamental accomplishment over the last 10 years."

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker again called on Saddam to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to resume the monitoring work they've been prevented from doing since 1998.

"Our concerns about Saddam Hussein's desire to pursue a program developing weapons of mass destruction, those concerns remain," Reeker said. "We need to have inspectors on the ground."

Reeker said Iraq must fulfill the disarmament conditions of the cease-fire that ended the gulf war.

In response to reporters' questions at the regular Pentagon briefing, Bacon admitted that Saddam remains in power and probably has enriched himself while his people suffered under U.N. sanctions.

But, he said, "I would question what joy one can derive from being a strongman in a weak country, as Saddam Hussein is." He later called the Iraqi leader "an emperor in a . . . weak, dispirited country."

"He's in a sense a captive in his country. He can't leave," said Bacon. "He seems to move around regularly in order to avoid assassination or other attacks from forces that wish him ill."

Bacon said Saddam has been unable to rebuild his military partly because the United States has helped contain him but largely because the United Nations with its embargo has kept him from buying more military equipment.

Asked to confirm that the cost of maintaining the no-fly zones has been about $2 billion a year, Bacon said it is "slightly less than that, but it is certainly over a billion dollars a year."

The United States has a major deployment of about 24,000 troops in the gulf, including Army troops exercising in Kuwait, the Navy in Bahrain and Air Force members stationed around the Gulf.

Bacon said warplanes have flown more than 200,000 sorties in a southern Iraq no-fly zone since flights started in August 1992 and 16,000 in the North since a no-fly zone was established there in 1997. The flights are meant to prevent the use of Iraqi aircraft against the country's minorities.