Kuwaiti Oil Minister Offers to Step Down

Kuwaiti members of parliament have called for the resignation of the entire government following last week's explosion at an oil plant where four workers were killed and sixteen were injured. The blast severely disrupted production, crude output is down by one-third.

Oil Minister Adel al-Subaih has already offered to resign but opposition members of parliament said that was not enough. The blast at the Rawdatain plant, approximately 40 miles north of Kuwait City, was the third big accident in the country's oil industry in the past two years.

It is still not known if Mr Al-Subaih's offer to resign has been accepted. The opposition argued that a wholesale change in government was needed. The government must "show solidarity with the (oil) minister and resign with him," Islamist MP Abdullah al-Arada told parliament in a debate on the blast. "If we lose the oil, the entire country is lost," he said. But Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah stated the government would remain.

The state-owned Kuwait Oil Company said it would compensate for lost production by increasing output at other fields. Mr Al-Subaih told parliament it could take up to a month to restore partial oil supplies from the north. The explosion and fire at the plant was caused by an oil leak, according to official reports. Several members of parliament said the frequency of such accidents - eight people died in two separate refinery accidents in 2000 - revealed corruption and mismanagement in state-run companies and government departments. "The issue is that the entire country is out of control, a ship without a rudder," said Ahmad al-Rubae.

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