Kuwait MPs want to grill oil minister

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Kuwait opposition MPs filed a request on Sunday to grill Oil Minister Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al Sabah over controversial press statements and allegations of financial and administrative violations.The request, which was submitted by three MPs representing different opposition blocs, followed weeks of mounting pressure on the minister to resign after less than one year in his post.

The grilling, which is expected to take place on June 25, could develop into a vote of no-confidence, which if passed by the 50-seat parliament would mean automatic dismissal of the minister.

“We reject the minister staying in his post. We believe that if Sheikh Ali stays on, it would represent a real danger to this vital [oil] sector,” said MP Mussallam Al Barrak, one of the three MPs who filed the request.

Sheikh Ali has been under fire since telling Al Qabas newspaper on May 12 that he considered former oil minister Sheikh Ali Khalifa Al Sabah, a defendant in a major graft case, as “my master and that I consult him occasionally on oil issues.” Sheikh Ali, a member of the ruling Al Sabah family, issued a statement afterwards in which he apologised for what he said and stressed he would pursue people accused of stealing public funds.

Sheikh Ali Khalifa is one of five former top officials of the state-owned Kuwait Oil Tanker Co. (KOTC) accused of stealing more than $100 million. He categorically denies the charges.

The former minister has been interrogated several times during the past few weeks by a special judiciary panel over his alleged role in the KOTC fraud.

Opposition MPs have been infuriated that the oil minister’s statements were issued at the time of the interrogation and when parliament had started a debate over several graft cases involving public funds.

The 20-page grilling request charged that the statements gave wrong signals about the government’s determination to pursue graft cases in court.

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