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New Kuwait PM is Country's First Who is Not Crown Prince - 2003-07-13

The Emir of Kuwait has appointed a new prime minister, removing the job for the first time from the crown prince. Political analysts in the region say it is a significant development because now, government ministers will be dealing with a prime minister who is not in line to become the country's next emir.

For the first time since Kuwait's independence in 1961, the position of prime minister has been given to someone other than the country's crown prince.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the 74-year-old Kuwaiti foreign minister, was appointed as new prime minister Sunday, in a move seen as a step toward political reform in the emirate.

The post of prime minister had been held since 1978 by Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah, who is in line to become Kuwait's next emir.

However, the crown prince has been in ill health since 1997, and in his many absences for treatment abroad, Sheikh Sabah has effectively run the country. He now has the title to go with the job.

Ossama Saraya, the editor-in-chief of al-Ahram weekly magazine in Egypt, said Kuwaiti government ministers will be able to have freer discussions with, and even criticize, a prime minister who is not their future ruler.

Mr. Saraya said the decision gives full freedom to the Kuwaiti ministers to confront the executive government with their own opinions and new suggestions. He said it opens the door to a new stage of political evolution in Kuwait. Mr. Saraya said it could one day even lead to the election of non-royal family members to key positions of power in Kuwait.

Sunday's announcement, reported by Kuwait's official news agency (KUNA), said the new prime minister has been asked to form a government. His appointment follows legislative elections held July fifth in Kuwait that led to the resignation of the former Cabinet.

Sheikh Sabah, a member of the royal family, previously served as Kuwait's first deputy premier and has served as the country's foreign minister since 1963.