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Kuwaiti protests on Tuesday aim to remove PM

Posted: 07 Mar 2011 06:38 AM PST

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti youth groups will take to the streets on Tuesday to demand the removal of the prime minister and for more political freedom in the Gulf Arab state, the world's fourth largest oil exporter.

The protests, inspired by Arab unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that has toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, will add to pressure for political reforms.

The protest organisers want Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah to be replaced, and some demand the appointment of a politician from outside the al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait for some 250 years.

"We will also distribute watermelons to lawmakers as they enter the parliament on Tuesday, as a symbol of chaos and discontent with their performance," Mubarak Alhaza, a member of the Kafi (Enough) youth movement, told Reuters.

Kuwait is home to the Gulf region's most outspoken parliament, but it does not allow political parties. Parliament is made up of individuals who form loose blocs.

Shafiq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, said he expected the protests on Tuesday to be calmer than those that erupted in other Gulf states.

"We're talking about reforms in political rights, governance, cabinet, education. In each country, every movement has a different nature. In Kuwait the movement is not to end the regime, but to reform the politics," Ghabra said.

The prime minister, a nephew of the ruler, has already survived two non-cooperation motions in parliament since he was appointed by the emir in 2006. All other key portfolios such as defence, interior and foreign affairs are also held by al-Sabahs. The emir has the final say in all political matters.

"We think it's about time for this change, which will allow for a correction in decision-making policies," said Abdullah al-Neibari of the liberal Democratic Forum bloc. He wanted a prime minister from outside the ruling family.


Protests by youth groups Kafi and al-Soor al-Khames (Fifth Fence), the main organisers, will present a challenge to the government as organisers have not sought approval. Demonstrations are banned in Kuwait without prior approval.

Yet tensions with stateless Arabs who clashed with police last month in protests demanding citizenship appeared to be easing after some lawmakers promised to discuss a draft law in parliament on Tuesday that would grant them basic civil rights.

The stateless Arabs, longtime residents of Kuwait known as "bedoun" from the Arabic for without nationality, were demanding citizenship, free education, free healthcare and jobs, benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals.

Many of Kuwait's stateless are descendants of desert nomads denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in the small OPEC member state, whose citizens are entitled to generous welfare benefits.

"On Tuesday we will discuss a draft law in parliament, that calls for issuing them civil identification cards, which would allow them to issue birth certificates and other necessary documents," said Hassan Johar, the head of the parliament committee for stateless affairs.

Hundreds of stateless Arabs protested in two areas outside the Kuwaiti capital last month and were dispersed by police using teargas.

Several Kuwaiti lawmakers have since promised to grant them rights including the issuance of civil identification cards. The Bedoun had planned to demonstrate last week, but stayed home after some lawmakers promised to discuss the draft law.

Bedouns form 105,000 to 120,000 of a population of 3.56 million, of whom 1.13 million are Kuwaiti.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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FACTBOX - Libya's main cities

Posted: 07 Mar 2011 06:38 AM PST

March 7 (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi advanced on the rebel-held eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf on Monday in a counter-attack that forced residents to flee and rebels to hide their weapons in the desert.

Here are some details of Libya's main cities and towns and who controls them:

NOTE: All figures are approximate:

TRIPOLI: Government held

Population: 1.2 million

-- Gaddafi turned Tripoli into a mass celebration of his long rule on March 6, but residents in one of its most restive neighbourhoods pledged to press on with a campaign to oust him.

-- In the working class Tajoura neighbourhood, flashpoint of anti-Gaddafi sentiment in the capital, people looked terrified as vans loaded with Gaddafi supporters sped past shouting "God, Muammar, Libya, nothing more".

ZAWIYAH: Rebel-held, encircled by government forces

Population: Around 290,000

-- Forces loyal to Gaddafi on March 4 fought their way into Zawiyah, a town near the capital that has for days defied his rule, killing a rebel commander and pinning fighters into pockets of resistance. At least 30 civilians were killed.

MISRATA: Rebel held

Population: About 300,000

-- Libyan rebels beat back the fiercest attack so far by Gaddafi's forces on the town of Misrata, residents said on March 6. A doctor said at least 18 people were killed.

SIRTE: Government held

Population: Around 150,000

-- Gaddafi's home town. Latest indications are that Sirte is under central control with police and soldiers manning checkpoints.

RAS LANUF: Rebel held

Population: Over 12,500

-- Residents of the eastern Libyan town of Ras Lanuf, fearing assault by government forces, were leaving in cars laden with belongings on Monday and rebels said they had moved weapons into the desert for safe keeping.

BENGHAZI: All towns below are rebel held on March 7.

Population: 670,000


Population: More than 150,000


Population: 4,300


Population: 100,000


Population: 200,000

Sources Reuters/streamingradioguide

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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