WASHINGTON -- Iraq tried to assassinate former President George Bush in Kuwait City last month while he was there to help celebrate the 1991 liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi control, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
The Post said the Clinton administration has credible evidence of the plot but is divided on how to respond.
President Clinton sent a team of Secret Service and FBI agents trained in counter-terrorism to Kuwait City earlier this week to search for more evidence and to question suspects in custody.
Kuwaiti authorities reportedly seized 11 Iraqis and five other persons on charges of conspiracy to kill the former U.S. president and to execute 'other acts of terrorism, sabotage, infiltration and robbery.' One suspect is still at large, the newspaper said.
The newspaper said none of the plotters were ever close enough to the former president and his party to do harm.
Bush was in Kuwait City April 14-16 to celebrate the allied victory in the 1991 Persian Gulf War in which Iraq's 1990 invasion of the oil- rich kingdom was reversed.
The White House said late Friday the government takes the allegations 'very seriously.'
'If we determine Iraq was involved in state-sponsored terrorism, the United States will take appropriate action against Iraq,' said communications director George Stephanopolous.
The report Friday quoted government sources admitting to a split in the administration over a proper response, with some officials urging direct retribution and others seeking extradition of suspects held by Kuwait to the United States.
The newspaper said the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense said the plotters intended to try three times, if required, to kill Bush: with a remote- controlled car-bomb at the airport, with a second car-bomb near a theater where Bush received an honorary doctorate, and in a suicide attack by a man who planned to wrap himself in explosives and blow himself up while standing as close to Bush as possible.
Bush aides said he wanted to make the trip to Kuwait shortly after the war but could not. The invitation was reissued after he lost the election last yearyear and he was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, and by former Secretary of State James Baker, former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, former White House chief of staff John Sununu and others.
All the guests were either involved in the planning and execution of the war or were personal friends of the former president.