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Sat 2 Jun 2007 10:08 PM

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Kuwait ruler: give cabinet 'a chance'

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has urged MPs to end a standoff with the new government.

Kuwait's ruler has urged the Gulf Arab state's parliament, which has been locked in a standoff with the government for weeks, to give the new cabinet a chance to prove itself.

The new lineup has come under pressure from parliament just three months after the last government resigned to avert a no-confidence vote against the then health minister.

Deputies are now criticising Oil Minister Sheikh Ali al-Jarrah al-Sabah, some calling for him to be questioned or even to resign for seeking advice from a predecessor who had been investigated for alleged embezzlement.

"Give them a chance," new Kuwaiti daily al-Jarida on Saturday quoted Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as saying.

"Is it possible to understand this situation? The ministers are not able to work ... and they have assumed their responsibilities for only 57 days."

The emir has the last say in politics in the major OPEC oil producer but tends only to enter the fray to resolve major issues. Kuwait's rulers have dissolved parliament several times since it was established in 1963.

The oil minister came under pressure after a newspaper carried an interview in which he said he sought advice on oil issues from Sheikh Ali al-Khalifa al-Sabah, a former oil minister and relative who was investigated over the alleged embezzlement of $130 million at Kuwait Oil Tanker Co. (KOTC).

Sheikh Khalifa has denied any wrongdoing and a ministers' court dropped the case against him on a technicality in 2001.

But Kuwait's ruler said Sheikh Khalifa was still being investigated.

"This Ali al-Khalifa is before the prosecution and being tried," the paper quoted him as saying.

Kuwait is keen to diversify its economy away from oil revenues to emulate the success of Gulf neighbours Dubai and Bahrain, which have become financial centres and tourist destinations, but key reform laws have been delayed in parliament as the standoff persists.