June 15, 2011 / 8:29 PM / in 6 years

Kuwait ruler warns against unrest, security threats

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait’s emir said Wednesday the Gulf state would show “zero tolerance” to anyone threatening the OPEC oil exporter’s security, after the opposition held weekly rallies demanding that the prime minister step down.

Thanks to a generous welfare system, Kuwait has avoided the mass protests that have forced out the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia.

But the Gulf Arab state has endured a long political stalemate, and opposition has built up against Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, an influential member of the ruling family. Several hundred people have held weekly peaceful rallies to demand his resignation.

“I have asked the interior minister to continue to take measures to protect Kuwait’s security and stability and to show zero tolerance towards anyone who tries to compromise the security of the country,” Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah said in a speech carried by state media.

Sheikh Sabah also complained of “practices in parliament which are outside the framework of the constitution and beyond the requirements of national interests.”

Opposition members of the parliament, the most outspoken such assembly in the Gulf Arab region, have frequently asked to question the prime minister on issues ranging from alleged misuse of public funds to harming national security and relations with Arab countries by favouring ties with Iran.

Sheikh Nasser answered some of the questions in a closed session Tuesday, but apparently failed to satisfy the questioning MPs who entered a motion against the prime minister which is to be discussed next week. Such opposition motions have failed to gain majority support in the past.

Kuwait, which sits on 10 percent of global crude reserves, grants more political freedom than Gulf neighbours such as Saudi Arabia where few dare criticise the government or members of the ruling family.

But tensions between the government and parliament, which approves major bills and the budget, have delayed legislation aimed at attracting investment to diversify the economy away from oil.

Reporting by Eman Goma; writing by Firouz Sedarat

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