Oman sultan grants parliament legislative powers

AFP , Sunday 13 Mar 2011

Announcement comes a week after Sultan Qaboos' sacking of unpopular ministers following weeks of protest

Oman's Sultan Qaboos on Sunday granted legislative power to the previously toothless Oman Council after weeks of anti-government protests in the strategic Gulf state.

"We grant the Oman Council legislative and regulatory powers," said a royal decree carried by ONA state news agency, referring to the elected Majlis Ash-Shura consultative council and the all-appointed Council of State.

"A technical committee of specialists is to be formed to propose amendments to the state basic law to this effect," the decree said, adding the committee should present its report to the sultan within 30 days.

The announcement comes a week after the sultan sacked controversial ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle aimed at appeasing rare protests that flared up last month.

The economy and interior ministers were among at least 12 cabinet members to lose their jobs in the 29-member cabinet.

Demonstrators say they do not want to topple the revered sultan, but are demanding jobs, better pay and an end to corruption.

The reshuffle failed to end a sit-in at Earth Roundabout in the northern city of Sohar, which started on 27 February.

At least one protester was killed in clashes with police in Sohar on 27 February but Oman has been spared the violence that has gripped other Arab states including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and neighbouring Yemen.

Oman is a Western ally on the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 per cent of the world's oil shipments pass.

Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled Oman for four decades, earlier announced the creation of 50,000 new jobs, a monthly allowance for registered job seekers and a higher minimum wage for nationals working in the private sector.

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