Kuwait's ailing emir agrees to abdicate
Updated: 2006-01-24 08:43
Kuwait's ailing emir has agreed to abdicate under a deal worked out within
the ruling family, a lawmaker said Monday ！ paving the way for the prime
minister and longtime de facto ruler to take the reins of power.
The accord followed an unprecedented public quarrel within the ruling
family over who would lead the country, one of Washington's most steadfast
allies in the Middle East and a major oil producer, after the death of its
One faction backed the ailing new emir, Sheik Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah, and
the other ！ including the Cabinet ！ supported the prime minister, half brother
to the previous leader, who died Jan. 15.
The two camps met Monday night to try to reach a compromise before a
parliament debate Tuesday over whether Sheik Saad should be ousted in favor of
the prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah.
In announcing the
abdication deal, lawmaker Nasser al-Saneh told The Associated Press "an
agreement has been reached in the family and (Sheik Saad) will sign the
abdication papers tomorrow."
Kuwait's Speaker of Parliament Jassim
al-Kharafi (C) speaks to reporters as he leaves the Parliament building on
January 23, 2006.[Reuters]
It was not known when Sheik Sabah would take the oath as emir.
As prime minister, Sheik Sabah has been running the day-to-day affairs of
Kuwait since the longtime ruler, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, suffered a brain
hemorrhage in 2001. Sheik Jaber ruled for 27 years and had been restored to
power by U.S. forces after Saddam Hussein invaded the country in 1990.
As crown prince, Sheik Saad, Sheik Jaber's cousin, was treated for a bleeding
colon in 1997.
Both Sheik Saad and the prime
minister are in their mid-70s ！ their exact ages are not known ！ but Sheik Sabah
is the more fit of the two. He had a heart pacemaker implanted but otherwise is
said to be in good health.
New Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad
al-Sabah is seen in Abu Dhabi December in this 18, 2005 file
The leadership crisis came to a head Friday when scores of ruling family
members visited Sheik Sabah at his residence and asked him to take charge of the
The push for Sheik Sabah's ascension,
however, was snarled when some members of Sheik Saad's branch of the ruling
family objected. Key among them was Sheik Salem Al Ali Al Sabah, chief of the
national guard and the oldest member of the family. His status as family elder
added particular weight to his objection.
Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad.
Some lawmakers had said they would boycott Tuesday's parliamentary debate,
hoping the ruling family would find a compromise.
"Lawmakers don't want to take sides," Islamist legislator Walid Tabtabai,
The 1964 succession law gives the Cabinet the right to ask parliament to
transfer the emir's powers to the crown prince if it is proven the ruler is
physically unable to carry out his duties. A two-thirds vote is needed.
Many Kuwaitis had voiced fears Sheik Saad would be unable to recite the full
oath of office stipulated by the constitution. Since he succeeded his cousin
just over a week ago, he has appeared in a wheelchair and has not spoken in
"I never wanted things to reach the point of removing his highness the emir,"
Hussein al-Qallaf, a Shiite cleric and lawmaker said. "It is difficult and it
weighs heavily on all legislators. Sheik Saad is loved by all Kuwaitis."
The ailing emir is the son of Abullah Al Salem Al Sabah,
who is known as the "father of democracy" and the founder of modern Kuwait.
Kuwaitis, who are used to a smooth succession, had hoped for a compromise by
the ruling family. The nation's news media, meanwhile, had sided with Sheik
"Things are as clear as the sun. The family has pledged allegiance to Sheik
Sabah to run the country and he is qualified for that," wrote Al-Watan in its
front-page editorial Monday.
"Go (ahead), your highness Sheik Sabah, and we will follow and support you,"