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Kuwait's cabinet resigns in new political crisis

Ministers standoff with parliament to avert PM questioning

The Kuwaiti government has handed in its resignation to avert a questioning of the prime minister in parliament but it was unclear whether it had been accepted by the ruler, two members of parliament said on Tuesday.

"We heard the news that the government has resigned," Islamist MP Naser al-Sana told reporters in parliament. Another MP, who declined to be identified, said the same.

Earlier 15 ministers—headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah himself— walked out of parliament to boycott the session over an agenda item calling for lawmakers to set a date to grill the premier, parliamentary sources said.

Three Islamist MPs last week filed a request to question the prime minister, a move which raises the possibility of parliament being dissolved for the third time in as many years.

None of the ministers made any comment to the press over their action.

But tribal MP Abdullah Fahma told AFP: "The government walkout is a strong indication of an intention to dissolve parliament."

The Islamist MPs accuse Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, of allowing a prominent Iranian Shiite cleric to enter Kuwait despite a legal ban.

They have also accused him of failing to "perform his constitutional duties ... and that it was time that Kuwait had a premier capable of running the state and achieving the wishes of the people."

And they have alleged that corruption and squandering of public funds had rapidly increased under the leadership of Sheikh Nasser, who is a senior member of the ruling family.

Political crisis

The OPEC member state is no stranger to political crises, with many MPs blaming disputes in the ruling Al-Sabah families.

Kuwait's constitution, the first adopted by an Arab state in the Gulf, was suspended in 1976 for five years and in 1986 for six years when parliament was also dissolved.

In 2006, a power struggle among the al-Sabahs resulted in an unprecedented vote by the elected parliament to remove the then emir, Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, on health grounds.

Parliament was also dissolved in March 2007 over political disputes between MPs and the government, and fresh elections were held.

The Al-Sabah family has run the affairs of Kuwait since it came into existence some 250 years ago, and Kuwaitis have seldom questioned their continuing rule.

The emir, crown prince and the prime minister are all from the family, which also controls the key ministerial portfolios of defense, interior, information and foreign affairs.