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Americans In Kuwait: When To Go?

There are about 8,000 Americans who live in Kuwait. Many are there on business; some for personal reasons and a few of those are married to Kuwaitis. With war on the horizon, these American families are facing a very big decision. Do they leave? And when?

The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith spoke with Sharon Margolis-Abal who is wrestling with those questions.

Margolis-Abal has been married to a Kuwaiti businessman for 20 years. They have four children ages four, three, one and a half and eight months. She plans to leave.

"I need to go," says Margolis-Abal, who is from Los Angeles. "The decision is,When is the safest time for my kids. I don't want to disrupt their lives by getting them out of Kuwait too soon and I don't want to leave it too late in case we can't get out."

Her husband, Shakir, who has an investment business and a chain of department stores, plans to stay.

"It's a really difficult decision because the kids need their father," says Margolis-Abal. She faced the same decision 12 years ago. Her husband stayed during the '91 invasion and she says there were long periods when she didn't know if he was alive or dead.

"I honestly didn't see him for a year," she says. At a time like this, the conversations at home are about her trying to change his mind, she says. "I'm like, let's go, we need to think of the kids first.' He's like, 'Nothing's going to happen. The Americans will protect us. Don't worry. Let's stay here.' And I'm like, 'What if something does happen? How am I going to raise four children?'"

A great concern is not just about another invasion, but about missile fire. Even if the missiles don't hit their targets, the warheads can explode or drop.

"Saddam Hussein is a loose cannon. I don't think anybody can judge what he's going to do," says Margolis-Abal. "That's why he's stayed alive for so long. That's why he's defeated attempts against his life, because nobody knows what he's going to do. So I think what could happen is he could light the oil fields in southern Iraq, which would bring huge pollution across Kuwait City. I think that he could toss any number of warhead missiles into Kuwait City with possible depleted uranium. Dirty bombs or any kinds of anthrax, smallpox and we just don't know."

She says she has made reservations for herself and the children for several different departure dates, Feb. 7, 16, 24, March 1 and 7.

"I was just at a lunch with all these friends and we're all sitting there going, when should we go? Should we wait to the 14th? Hans Blix is going to make another statement. Should we go tomorrow? Should we hang on for another month? Should we wait and hear if Bush is going to say, it's next week or never. We just don't know," says Margollis-Abal.

Most of the women she knows are leaving between now and Feb. 10. For her friends who have older children, she says, things will be easier. "It's easier to move a teen-age child. When you've got small kids, if we have to run on foot, how do I carry an infant and another toddler," she asks.

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