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No More Free Kuwaiti Gas For U.S.

The days when a U.S. Army truck could fill up for free at a gas station in this oil-rich state are coming to an end. Kuwait's energy minister said Thursday that U.S. troops are going to have to start paying for fuel.

In a gift that must have saved the Pentagon a fortune, Kuwait has not charged the U.S. military for fuel since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Tens of thousands of American Humvees, trucks and armored vehicles have rolled through the country and across the desert border into Iraq during the past two years.

"But now after the Iraqi elections ... we have to create a mechanism for payment," the energy minister, Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, told reporters.

Kuwait and the United States have agreed in principle on the matter, but the prices and other aspects are still to be worked out, he said.

The minister did not say when the new system would start and he did not give other details.

There was no reaction from the U.S. Embassy on Thursday.

Kuwait has been a major ally of Washington since a U.S.-led coalition liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation in the 1991 Gulf War.

The country was the launch pad for the war that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in April 2003, and it is still a logistics station for the U.S. troops serving there.

Some 18,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kuwait, and thousands more are regularly rotated in and out of Iraq.

Iraq's 275-seat National Assembly, which was elected Jan. 30, was sworn in on Wednesday.