Iraq's delegate at a meeting of the world's Muslim countries today called a Kuwaiti representative a monkey, ordered him to shut up and accused his country of treason by hosting tens of thousands of U.S. troops preparing for a possible invasion of Iraq.
The outburst and ensuing quarrel -- complete with a brief walkout by the Iraqi delegation and the interruption of a live television broadcast -- underlined the enmity that has endured between Iraq and Kuwait since Iraq's invasion and occupation of the wealthy Persian Gulf country in August 1990. The squabble quickly overshadowed deliberations at the meeting of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference in Doha, Qatar, which was called to find common ground over the prospect of a U.S.-led attack.
Instead, the meeting settled on a communique expressing opposition to a war and urged members not to take part. But it stopped short of considering bolder initiatives debated on the sidelines that called for the exile of the government of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, as the only way to avert a conflict.
As at an Arab summit last weekend in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Libya traded insults, delegates did little to hide their divisions. In a scathing speech, Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of Iraq's ruling Revolutionary Command Council, told members of the world's largest Islamic gathering of its type that Iraq expected them to take "concrete steps" to help against any U.S. attack.
"There should be a point-blank refusal of any aggression, and no help should be given to this enemy," said Ibrahim, who delivered a similar message at the Arab summit. "We hope Islamic nations can face the challenge that is before them."
He then turned his anger on Kuwait, accusing its government of treason and "conspiracy with Zionism and colonialism" for hosting U.S. troops who would lead any invasion of Iraq. At that point, he was interrupted by Mohammed Salem Sabah, Kuwait's minister of state for foreign affairs.
"Shut up, you minion, you agent, you monkey! You are addressing Iraq," Ibrahim shouted back, jabbing his finger in a broadcast on Arab satellite television stations that was briefly cut. "You are insolent. You are a traitor to the Islamic nation."
"This is hypocrisy and falsehood," Sabah retorted.
The Kuwaiti information minister, Ahmad Fahd Sabah, jumped up and waved a small Kuwaiti flag. Qatar's hosting emir, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Thani, tried to intervene. He admonished Ibrahim, then called on the next speaker. Iraq's delegation later walked out but was persuaded to return to the one-day meeting.
Shortly before Ibrahim's speech, Kuwait's foreign minister, Sabah Ahmed Sabah, aired a call for Iraq's leaders to consider exile as a way to avert an invasion that leaders in the region believe the United States is determined to carry out.
The United Arab Emirates became the first Arab government to publicly urge the exile of Hussein and his government at the Arab summit. The proposal was again debated on the sidelines of the summit in Doha, over Iraq's strenuous objections.