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Fri 25 May 2012 10:48 AM

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Kuwait's finmin resigns in new political row

Finance minister Mustapha al-Shamali quits after being quizzed over irregularities

Kuwait's finmin resigns in new political row
Kuwaits finance minister Mustapha al-Shamali has resigned.

Kuwait's Finance Minister Mustapha al-Shamali has resigned after a questioning session led by opposition lawmakers over alleged financial irregularities in departments he oversees.

The 69-year-old Finance Ministry veteran repeatedly had denied allegations of mismanagement on his watch.

His resignation marked fresh political discord between the government and parliament, which was only elected three months ago.

Opposition MPs, who hold a majority in parliament, had threatened Shamali with a vote of no confidence after the questioning session, which lasted several hours. He chose to resign in front of parliament instead.

Earlier on Thursday, when defending his position, he accused lawmakers of self-interested political gain.

The questioning session "deviated from serving the public interest and is for revenge and settling scores with the finance minister and some of his aides", his speech said, according to state news agency KUNA.

On Wednesday the whole cabinet boycotted a parliamentary session it had been asked to attend after a row over the plans to question Shamali.

Political upheaval is not new to the major oil producer, which ushered in its fourth parliament in six years after a snap election in February. Opposition, mainly Islamist, MPs won a majority of seats in that ballot, which was triggered by another political row between the government and parliament.

The infighting has held up decisions on large investment projects and scared away foreign investors, analysts and bankers say.

The lawmakers' eight-point motion cited "violations on the part of Kuwait Investment Authority," the country's sovereign wealth fund, and irregularities related to the Customs Department, the Al-Zour Plant company, wages, and other issues.

While Kuwait has one of the most open systems of government in the Gulf region, political parties are banned and opposition politicians instead form blocs in parliament.

They put pressure on the government through the "grillings", which ministers must comply with. A similar process targeting the former prime minister led to the resignation of the previous government.

Shamali became finance minister in 2007 and held onto the position through several questionings in parliament and cabinet reshuffles.