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Kuwait PM declines reappointment, emir removes senior ministers

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By Reuters
Kuwait PM declines reappointment, emir removes senior ministers
FILE PHOTO: Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz   -   Copyright  EDUARDO MUNOZ(Reuters)

KUWAIT/DUBAI (Reuters) – Kuwait’s caretaker prime minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak declined to be reappointed as premier on Monday, rebuffing an offer from the ruling emir after submitting the government’s resignation last week.

The cabinet resignation came after lawmakers sought a no-confidence vote against the interior minister over alleged abuse of power and as a feud between senior members of the ruling family, including the interior and defence ministers, emerged over an alleged mishandling of military funds.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah removed his son, Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid al-Jarrah al-Sabah from their posts on Monday, the state news agency KUNA reported.

The feud had spilled very publicly onto social media over the weekend. The corruption allegations had led to public protests outside the Gulf Arab state’s parliament this month.

The 90-year-old emir, in a televised speech, asked local media and the public to stop discussing an issue that was being handled by the judiciary.

“We will always safeguard public funds…and no one can escape justice no matter who they are,” he said. “I call on my fellow Kuwaitis to protect the interests of our country and its safety and security and to stand together.”

The emir will still have to select a prime minister after Sheikh Jaber, who has been premier since 2011, turned down the reappointment, citing media campaigns against him.

Kuwait’s oil policy, which is set by a supreme petroleum council, and foreign policy steered by the emir are unlikely to change under a new government in the U.S.-allied country.

Kuwait has the most open political system in the Gulf Arab region, with a parliament wielding power to pass legislation and question ministers. Parliamentary elections are due next year.

Power struggles between senior ruling family members have often played out in parliament. Cabinet resignations happen frequently when elected lawmakers are set to question or submit a no-confidence vote against senior government officials.

The defence minister had issued a statement two days after the government resignation, saying the cabinet had stood down to avoid addressing mismanagement of some 240 million dinars ($790 million) in military funds before he assumed office. He said the ministry had submitted the case to the public prosecutor.

The interior minister has rejected lawmakers’ charges against him.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Sylvia Westall and Hadeel Al Sayegh in Dubai, Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Mark Heinrich)