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Kuwait Says It Expects to Revoke Secondary Boycott Laws ‘very Soon’

Kuwait will soon revoke laws barring contracts with foreign companies that do business with Israel, a Kuwaiti Embassy official said Thursday.

Revocation is “only a matter of time” and will occur “very soon,” predicted Raed al-Rifai, spokesman at the embassy.

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, welcomed that statement.

The WJC also has made public a May 30 letter by Edward Gnehm, the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, assuring Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) that Kuwait will not use its “boycott blacklist” any longer against American companies.

Steinberg said Gnehm’s letter is significant in that he is vouching for a change in Kuwaiti policy.

“Since Kuwait’s liberation, many new American firms have found business opportunities in Kuwait, and many of those companies employ Americans of the Jewish faith,” the U.S. ambassador wrote.

Kuwait has not observed the so-called secondary boycott against Israel since Iraq’s invasion last August, the American Jewish Congress pointed out in the July issue of its Boycott Report newsletter.

The WJC said Kuwait’s enforcement of the boycott after the end of the Persian Gulf War became “problematic” because Iraq “had looted and vandalized” Kuwait’s boycott office after the invasion.

Rifai of the Kuwaiti Embassy said his government is “on record as saying not too long ago, in effect, that the boycott is not being applied. That is the reality of the situation” and “there won’t be a single (U.S.) company that will be boycotted,” he said.

When asked why Kuwait had not yet revoked the boycott laws, Rifai spoke of “certain sensitivities” to the “Arab approach now to the problem of the boycott.”

“We don’t want to do anything unilaterally,” he said. “It’s all over the Arab world that it will be revoked. We like to work within a certain framework.”

Rifai denied that Kuwait would revoke the laws in order to improve its relations with the United States. “Our relations with the United States have never been better. We have a complete understanding and our position is very clear,” he said.

Although Kuwait has suspended the so-called secondary boycott of Israel, it continues to bar Israeli-made goods from entering the country.

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