Kuwaiti parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem (R) and his Lebanese counterpart Nabih Berri give a press conference at Kuwait's national assembly on February 16, 2014
Kuwaiti parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem (R) and his Lebanese counterpart Nabih Berri give a press conference at Kuwait's national assembly on February 16, 2014 © Yasser al-Zayyat - AFP
Kuwaiti parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem (R) and his Lebanese counterpart Nabih Berri give a press conference at Kuwait's national assembly on February 16, 2014
AFP
Last updated: February 16, 2014

Kuwait to delay vote on Gulf security pact

Kuwaiti MPs are unlikely to vote on ratifying a Gulf security pact during the current legislative term, the parliament speaker said Sunday, amid concerns it would undermine constitutional freedoms.

Marzouk al-Ghanem told a press conference that a majority of MPs supporting and opposing the pact have called for delaying its ratification and that "no decision will be taken on it in the current parliamentary term" which closes at the end of June.

The next term normally opens in late October.

The pact calls for the extradition of anyone accused of carrying out political or security activities against a member state and allows members to seek military and security assistance from other GCC states to counter unrest.

Opponents say the pact would undermine freedom of expression, and several political groups have started holding public rallies warning it will turn Kuwait into a police state.

Unlike most of its neighbours, Kuwait has an elected parliament and relatively few restrictions on the press and public expression.

The speaker called on the government not to press for immediate ratification and to respond positively with the majority of the legislature.

Ghanem said he has asked parliament's constitutional experts to prepare a comprehensive legal study on the security pact and distribute it to all the 50 MPs who have requested expert opinions before debating the agreement.

Kuwait is the only member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) not to ratify the security pact, which was approved at a summit in Bahrain in December 2012 and signed by GCC interior ministers, including Kuwait's, a month earlier.

Besides Kuwait, the GCC groups energy-rich Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

The security agreement was specially modified to enable Kuwait to join after it refused to take part in an earlier pact introduced in 1994, saying it violated the constitution.

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