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Kuwaitis foiled plot to kill Bush

By
SID BALMAN Jr.

WASHINGTON -- Kuwait foiled an Iraqi plot to assassinate former President Bush during his visit there earlier this month, officials of the emirate said Tuesday.

Raed Al-Rifai, a senior Kuwaiti diplomat in Washington, said security forces arrested 14 Iraqi intelligence agents in Kuwait City prior to Bush's arrival.

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Three others escaped, he said.

Their plan was to detonate several car bombs, which were discovered, during ceremonies honoring Bush for his role in repelling Iraqi troops who had invaded Kuwait prior to the Persian Gulf war, he said.

'Part of the plot was to try to explode the bombs while Bush and other officials were in a public forum,' Al-Rifai said.

Bush was joined by his wife, Barbara and two of their sons, former Secretary of State James Baker, former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu and former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady during his three-day stay April 14.

Senior State Department officials said they had been informed by diplomatic sources that several Iraqis had been arrested in the emirate. The administration has asked Kuwait for further explanation, the officials said.

Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheikh Ali-Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah told his parliament Tuesday that assassination of Bush would have been only part of the operation.

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'The main target was to destabilize order in Kuwait,' Sheikh Ali said. 'They were planning to seize the opportunity of Bush's visit in order, as people say, to kill two birds with one stone.'

Portions of the transcript of Sheikh Ali's comments to Parliament were made available by Kuwaiti officials.

Sheikh Ali said the 17 intelligence agents were made up of Iraqis, stateless Arabs and Kuwaitis. Al-Rifai said they had sneaked across the desert frontier between the two Arab nations.

In addition to detonating car bombs, Sheikh Ali said, the alleged assasins planned suicide bombings.

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