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Opposition Hostile to New Kuwait Cabinet

KUWAIT'S new Cabinet, shorn of some ministers from the ruling al-Sabah family but retaining others, looked set for a hostile opposition reaction yesterday. The new government formed by Sheikh Saad al-Abdulla al-Sabah, the crown prince and prime minister, contained five Sabahs, two fewer than the old Cabinet.

This appeared to respond to opposition demands, but activists dismissed the changes as a cosmetic Sabah reshuffle, coupled with the introduction of new technocrats.

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"This Cabinet is an insult to the Kuwaiti people," said one activist.

Pro-democracy activists, who wanted a broad-based national-unity government to nurse Kuwait through the aftermath of the Iraqi occupation and the Gulf war, welcomed the departure of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the veteran deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

But they objected to his replacement by Sheikh Salem al-Sabah, the former interior minister, whom they regard as responsible for government crackdowns on the opposition before the Iraqi invasion last August.

A Western diplomat said the biggest change was dropping Sheikh Sabah, who had been in the government for nearly three decades and is regarded as the third-ranking Sabah.

But some Kuwaitis suggested he may have refused to serve in the new government and hinted at rifts between branches of the ruling family, which has about 2,000 members.

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