KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's prime minister faced a rare grilling in parliament Tuesday from opposition lawmakers seeking to force his resignation over accusations of using strong-arm tactics against government critics.
Following the meeting, 10 Kuwaiti opposition lawmakers filed a motion of "non-cooperation" with the prime minister in a bid to oust him from office, Islamist MP Faisal al-Muslim told reporters.
The political revolt against Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah could threaten the stability of the government in one of the West's key allies in the Gulf and an important transit point for US military forces leaving Iraq.
The parliament questioning was demanded after security forces clashed with opposition lawmakers and their supporters at a Dec. 8 rally. Kuwaiti officials say the crowd taunted police and did not have a permit for a rally.
Kuwait's parliament is one of the few elected bodies in the Gulf with the power to bring down a government and pose significant challenges to the country's rulers.
But government officials did not seem worried, even while security forces fanned out around the parliament building as the closed-door session got under way.
The opposition bloc appeared to have few hopes of securing a majority in the 50-seat chamber to unseat the premier, who is a nephew of Kuwait's ruler.
"I am ready to be questioned, and I want the debate now," Sheik Nasser told parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi as the session opened.
The prime minister, who took office in 2006, survived a confidence vote a year ago after allegations of misuse of public funds.
Opposition groups have not eased their pressure on the government, which they accuse of trying to roll back political freedoms and clamp down on dissent.
Some opposition parliament members pushed for the questioning to be open, but government supporters gathered enough votes to forced a closed session.
Ahmad al-Khateeb, a veteran political figure in Kuwait, wrote in the weekly Al-Taleea newspaper that parliament was struggling with "the future of Kuwait" and the direction of its democracy.
* With additional reporting by AFP