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Kuwaiti lawmakers quiz new PM over handling of graft probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2012 11:59 AM
Kuwaiti lawmakers quiz new PM over handling of graft probe

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti lawmakers questioned the prime minister on Wednesday over the handling of an investigation into corruption allegations linked to the collapse of the previous government, but stopped short of calling a no-confidence motion.

Kuwait's former prime minister and senior officials had been quizzed several times in the past, but Wednesday's questioning was the first of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah, highlighting discord in the new parliament.

Parliament member Saleh Ashour, who had called for the questioning, has accused Sheikh Jaber of failing to investigate the corruption allegations since being appointed in February.

Sheikh Jaber has denied that and told parliament it had to wait for the findings of a prosecutors' office investigation.

A Kuwaiti court is probing a complaint against former premier Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah and a nephew of the emir over allegations of illicit financial transfers abroad.

Sheikh Nasser's government resigned last year after some opposition lawmakers accused it of making a series of illegal financial transfers via Kuwait's embassies abroad. He denied any wrongdoing at the time.

Protesters at the time staged a series of demonstrations outside parliament and stormed the chamber, forcing the government to resign and triggering the dissolution of the assembly.

The move to quiz the highest-ranking minister so early in the legislative period suggests power struggles will continue to paralyze politics and stifle economic and social reforms in the oil-producing state.

Parliamentarians can call a vote of no confidence after questioning a minister if ten lawmakers back the motion.

But most opposition politicians, who won a majority of seats in the election, decided not use this option which might have jeopardized their own new-found power by opening the door to parliament's dissolution.

Kuwait, a key regional U.S. ally, is home to one of the region's most outspoken and bickering parliaments. February's vote ushered in the fourth parliament in six years.

Political instability and the snail-like pace of reform have put off the potential foreign investors needed to help implement Kuwait's ambitious development plan.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Harbi; Writing by Sylvia Westall)