Kuwaiti emir calls for crackdown on protests
Publisher: BBC News
Author: By Camilla Hall in Abu Dhabi
Story date: 17/11/2011
Language: English

The ruler of Kuwait has ordered the authorities to take "all necessary measures" to safeguard national security after protesters stormed parliament in the most dramatic act yet in a long-running campaign to oust the prime minister.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, the Emir of Kuwait, gave the order after an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday amid the most significant protests to hit the Gulf state since unrest began to sweep across the Middle East earlier this year.

Ali Fahad Al-Rashid, minister of state for cabinet affairs, said: "National responsibility calls for stricter measures to confront this chaotic behaviour."

The target of Wednesday's demonstrations was Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, the prime minister. Protesters called for him to be deposed and tried to reach his house, according to local media.

Kuwait has been in political stalemate for some time, with the dissolution of the parliament a regular event and critical reforms, including plans for economic development, stalled. Tension increased this summer after a group of lawmakers were accused of receiving bribes, and in May two members of parliament tried to question Sheikh Nasser for alleged misuse of public funds, a charge he denies.

Kuwait, which has the most active parliament in the Gulf, with MPs having more powers than their counterparts elsewhere, and which recently announced social spending totalling $7.6bn, has largely avoided the political upheaval that has spread to other Gulf states, including Bahrain and Oman. However, observers said the protests signalled that even countries able to distribute such largesse were not immune from the sentiments sweeping the Arab world.

Christopher Davidson, reader of Middle East politics at Durham University in the UK, said: "A fear barrier has been broken across the region."

Kuwaitis, who are relatively wealthy, have aimed their protests at what they allege is corruption in the system, criticising the use of the country's oil funds and questioning why the country's economy has fallen behind regional rivals in recent years.

Some reports said thousands of peopletook part in Wednesday's protests, and photographs posted on the internet showed scores squeezed inside the parliament building.

Five police and national guard officers were injured in the clashes, the interior ministry said on Thursday in a statement. It is unclear whether any protesters were hurt

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