Middle East

Kuwait parliamentary panel rejects Gulf security pact

Kuwaiti first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah (C-L) arrives to attend the 130th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on March 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

KUWAIT CITY: The Kuwaiti parliamentary committee for foreign relations on Thursday rejected a security pact ratified by other Gulf nations, with MPs saying the government-backed treaty is unconstitutional.

Leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) approved the pact at a summit in December 2012 after it was signed by all GCC interior ministers including Kuwait.

The text paves the way for the extradition of anyone accused of carrying out political or security activities against a GCC member state.

It also allows members to seek military and security assistance from other GCC states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- to counter unrest.

But opponents say the pact will undermine constitutional freedoms in Kuwait, the first member of the GCC to have a directly elected parliament and relatively few restrictions on the press and public expression.

Several political groups have held rallies warning that the pact will turn Kuwait into a police state.

Three members of the five-strong foreign relations committee on Thursday rejected the measure while the other two voted in favour, panel secretary Hamdan al-Azemi told reporters.

The panel referred the issue to parliament for a final decision, Azemi added. Parliament is not expected to debate the issue until late October.

Parliament, which is dominated by pro-government MPs but also includes several opposition MPs, can approve the pact but the panel's decision is an indication of the mounting rejection in Kuwait to the controversial treaty.

Since early 2006, Kuwait has been in almost continuous political crisis, with a dozen cabinets quitting and parliament dissolved six times.

But since July parliamentary elections, tensions have subsided as parliament and government opt for cooperation.



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