Kuwaiti minister says parliamentary elections will be held within 6 months


KUWAIT CITY -- Kuwait will hold parliamentary elections within six months, the minister of state for Cabinet affairs said yesterday.

"As soon as the country is under normal law, the election is going to come," said Abdul Rahman al-Awadi.

Mr. Al-Awadi said a series of discussions between the government and citizens would be held before the elections. Kuwait's 50-member National Assembly was dissolved in 1986 by the emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

During and after the U.S. congressional debate that authorized President Bush to use military might to force Iraq out of Kuwait, some observers complained that troops from the world's standard-bearer of democracy would be fighting for a monarchy.

Mr. Al-Awadi said the emir and the crown prince, Sheik Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, would retain their authority but insisted there would be a democratic form of government.

"We have suspended parliamentary activity, but don't say we abandoned democracy," Mr. Al-Awadi said. "The parliament is going to start again as soon as we have normal life."

Kuwait has been under martial law since its liberation by allied troops last week.

Among some Kuwaitis, there is quiet but growing concern because the nation's leaders have not yet returned to the emirate.

The Americans, Canadians, British and Italians, among others, have reopened their embassies. But there has been no official word on when the emir will come from Taif, Saudi Arabia, where his government-in-exile has had its headquarters since the Aug. 2 invasion.

"I think there is great sadness that we have had no word from our leaders and disappointment that others have come back before our government," said a 26-year-old student who was studying in the United States when the Iraqis invaded.

But Mr. Al-Awadi said Kuwait's leaders were busily running the government from afar, trying to ensure the restoration of essential services.

"You can't bring the leader of your country to a place where it's not safe," he said. "Their concern right now, I'm sure, is to have life going back to normal."

Mr. Al-Awadi noted that several Cabinet members -- including the ministers of the interior, defense, health, communications, information and planning -- were back.

"I'm sure the feeling of the Kuwaitis is that the emir will come back when it's very safe," he said. "But don't ever think the emir and the crown prince are not longing to come back."

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