WASHINGTON -- Kuwait's government-in-exile pledged $13.5 billion yesterday toward the cost of the U.S.-led war to liberate its nation from Iraqi control, for which Bush administration officials hope U.S. taxpayers will bear no more than 20 percent of the cost.
Meanwhile, President Bush urged Americans to go on with their routine activities during what might be a months-long conflict in the Persian Gulf, saying, "We are not going to screech everything to a halt" because of terrorist threats from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The Kuwaiti ambassador, Sheik Saud Nasir al-Sabah, said after a meeting with Secretary of State James A. Baker III that his government offered the $13.5 billion as a partial installment to cover the first three months of 1991.
The new pledge follows a Kuwaiti contribution of $2.5 billion in cash last year to help finance the cost of the five-month buildup to the war that involved the massive deployment of 450,000 U.S. troops.
"We believe this is a small and insignificant contribution [compared] to the contribution our friends in the United States have made, not just in financial but in human resources," the envoy said of the new money.
The Kuwaitis were among the major donors to the opening phase of the gulf operation.
Of the $10 billion price tag that the Pentagon put on Operation Desert Shield for the five months of 1990, $5.8 billion in cash and in-kind contributions have been made by Kuwait, Japan, Germany, Saudi
Arabia and other partners. An additional $2 billion in pledges is due in, leaving the U.S. tab at about 20 percent for the first phase.
A senior administration official said this week that Mr. Bush hoped a new round of solicitations would produce allied contributions in similar proportions for the combat phase of the Persian Gulf conflict. Kuwait's new pledge and a promise of $9 billion from Japan earlier this week will be part of that amount.
President Bush said yesterday that he expected more contributions to be announced next week, when Mr. Baker is to meet with officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The president's comments on life during wartime came in response to a question about whether he had considered dropping the practice of giving the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress since the gathering of top officials there Tuesday night could provide a tempting target for terrorists.
"I'm not going to be held a captive in the White House by Saddam Hussein," Mr. Bush insisted. "We're going about our business, and the world goes on."
Noting that similar concerns have been raised about the Super Bowl game tomorrow, the president added, "We're not going to screech everything to a halt in terms of the recreational activities. . . . I think that's a good clear signal for Americans to send halfway around the world."
The State Department announced yesterday that several terrorist incidents had occurred within the past day or so at private or commercial facilities associated with the United States or other countries in the anti-Iraq coalition, but that no injuries had been reported.
The incidents included a bomb that was thrown over the wall of the American recreational club in Kampala, Uganda, and several small explosions in Athens, Greece -- at two banks and at the home of the French military attache.