Kuwait denies reports it sought Nepalese guards

Kuwait says it never made a request to Nepal for experienced soldiers to serve in the Gulf country's Emiri Guard.

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KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's defence minister and the Nepalese embassy have denied reports that a request was made to Kathmandu for experienced soldiers to serve in the Gulf country's Emiri Guard. Speaking to reporters at a graduation ceremony for a class at the Ali al Sabah Military Academy on Wednesday, Sheikh Jaber al Mubarak al Sabah said the Emiri Guard was one of the largest brigades in the military, and if there was ever any need for support, Kuwaitis would be given priority.

The Nepalese newspaper Nagarik reported earlier this month that Kuwaiti officials had asked the Nepalese army for up to 200 soldiers with 12 to 15 years' military experience and training in how to protect high-level dignitaries through the Nepalese ambassador to Kuwait, Madhuwan Poudel. "Kuwait has asked for some 150 to 200 incumbent soldiers as bodyguards," said Shreedhar Prasad Pokhrel, a spokesman for the ministry of defence, the paper reported. The English-language online news service Nepal News quoted the report.

"We are positive on that," he said, adding that the government was preparing to send the troops. The Nepalese ambassador was not available for comment yesterday, but a source at the embassy denied that Kuwait had asked for any troops. He said: "We did not have any request from the Kuwaitis; we don't know how that rumour came about." The Emiri Guard is responsible for the safety of Kuwait's emir and is known in Kuwait for putting up some of the country's stiffest resistance to the Iraqi invasion in 1990 at the emir's residence, an encounter that became known as the Battle of Dasman Palace.

"I have no doubt that they would benefit the Kuwaiti military," said MB Gurung, 50, a former Gurkha soldier with the British Army, who served in Hong Kong, Brunei and the UK for 19 years, reaching the rank of Colour Sergeant. In addition to their role in the British Army, more than 1,000 Nepalese soldiers guard the Sultan of Brunei, around 3,000 make up a paramilitary force in Singapore, and a huge contingent of about 100,000 serve in the Indian army, Mr Gurung said.

Many former Nepalese soldiers already work in Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait through private security firms, guarding sensitive installations and embassies, he said. Kuwait would benefit from Nepalese soldiers as long as they are given good leadership, he added. jcalderwood@thenational.ae