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Iraqis loot Kuwait's central bank of gold, cash

TAIF, Saudi Arabia -- Iraqi forces have stolen about $400 million worth of gold and $1 billion in banknotes from occupied Kuwait's central bank, but the looting will not benefit Baghdad because of the U.N. embargo, senior Kuwaiti officials said Friday.

'The gold, the value to them is considerably less than its face value,' said Kuwaiti Finance Minister Ali Khalifa Sabah said of the lost $400 million in gold. 'If they sell it, from where are they going to get the cash? The payments for it will be forfeit.'

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During a briefing after Secretary of State James Baker met with exiled Kuwaiti officials, Sabah and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah provided reporters with details of financial conditions and losses as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The government- in-exile has made the Saudi resort town of Taif its headquarters.

In assessing the financial situation, the finance minister said the $1 billion in banknotes were worthless to Iraq. Soon after Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, Baghdad revalued the Kuwaiti dinar to the Iraqi dinar, cutting it to one-twelfth of its value.

He also said the central bank, which some reports indicate may have been mined, did not have large amounts of foreign currency and both officials said they were not aware of any other large-scale assets left in the kingdom, such as jewels or other valuables.

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'Our assets are not frozen in the same sense that the Iraqi assets are,' the foreign minister told reporters. 'In the case of Iraq, they were frozen as a punishment and as an inducement for them (to negotiate).

'In the case of Kuwait, they were frozen only to protect them against the Iraqi occupiers,' al Sabah said. 'However, various governments all over the world are giving us full management and access to these assets.'

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