Kuwaiti Shiite minority upset over exclusion from state posts

Kuwait City, Kuwait - The Shiite minority in the Gulf state of Kuwait warned that their "deliberate" exclusion from political posts in the emirate could damage national unity.

The latest appointments have "marginalized a large section of citizens", the head of the Shiite Scholars' Congregation in Kuwait, Mohammed Baqer al-Muhri.

"This has prevented their participation in the cabinet despite their high qualification and their loyalty to the country and political leadership," Muhri said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Shiite reaction came after the government appointed on Sunday six members of the municipal council, none of them Shiite. Only one Shiite figured among the 10 members elected Thursday to the 16-seat council.

"We noticed a deliberate exclusion of a large sect in Kuwait, contrary to established norms. The group feels it is unjustly treated by this exclusion from the cabinet and municipality," Muhri added.

"What happened is not in the interest of the government and the country, and could lead, God forbid, to a crack in the national unity and a fragmentation of society," he said.

Most of the five Shiites in the 50-member parliament criticized the appointments this week and called on the government to make good on its decision to include all sectors of society in the council.

Shiites make up about one third of Kuwait's native population of 956,000. Their ancestors hailed from

Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The Shiites have been emboldened by events in Iraq, where the power of the majority Shiites is on the rise after years of oppression under

Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.

Normally, at least one Shiite is appointed in Kuwaiti cabinets. But they have been without representation since former information minister Mohammad Abulhassan resigned in January under pressure from Sunni Islamists.