TAIF, SAUDI ARABIA, SEPT. 8 -- Kuwait's more than $100 billion in foreign assets around the world have been unfrozen and the exiled Kuwaiti government here has "full management" over them, according to the Kuwaiti finance minister, Sheik Ali Khalifa.
The minister said the assets had initially been frozen "only to protect them against the Iraqi occupiers" who invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. "Various governments all over the world are giving us full management and access to these assets," Khalifa told reporters here Friday.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III received a commitment Friday from the exiled emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jabir Ahmed Sabah, that his government would provide $5 billion from its foreign assets this year to help defray costs of the U.S. military buildup here and to offset losses of income to Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.
The Kuwaiti government's foreign assets are estimated at more than $100 billion. The value of privately held assets belonging to the ruling Sabah family and other Kuwaitis is not known, but it is thought to amount to more than $200 billion.
Before the invasion, Kuwait earned at least $6 billion a year in dividends and income from its overseas investments, more than it received from oil exports. If its assets are no longer frozen, the exiled government apparently still gets that money.
While Iraq seized most of Kuwait's oil fields and the United Nations placed an embargo on Iraqi-controlled Kuwaiti exports, the exiled government may still be receiving proceeds from its 30 percent share of production from operations near the Kuwaiti-Saudi border.
Oil production there amounted to about 300,000 barrels a day before the occupation. Two-thirds of that amount came from an offshore oil field whose export facilities at Khafji, in northestern Saudi Arabia, are still functioning. The Arabian Oil Co., which owns the oil, is a three-way partnership among Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Japan, with the Japanese running the operation.
The Kuwaiti minister also provided reporters with an estimate of the value of Kuwaiti gold and local and foreign currency seized by Iraq from the Kuwaiti central bank.
The gold is valued at 120 million Kuwaiti dinars, or $300 million to $400 million, according to Khalifa's estimate. The Iraqis seized 1 billion Kuwaiti dinars, which he described as "worthless" to them since the serial numbers are known and they therefore cannot be exchanged for hard currency. In addition, he said, there was $10 million to $15 million in foreign currencies in the bank at the time.