Bahrain's king rearranges political forces

Bahrain's king has reshuffled the Cabinet, replacing the long time foreign minister and dissolving the Oil Ministry, the official news agency reported Tuesday.

Sheik Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, who had been foreign minister since the early 1970s, was replaced by Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, another member of the royal family and a former ambassador to Britain, the Bahrain News Agency said.

The former foreign minister, Sheik Mohammed, was appointed deputy prime minister, the agency said.

The king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, replaced the Oil Ministry with a new body, the National Oil and Gas Authority, which is to be run Abdulhussain Mirza, a minister of state in the outgoing Cabinet who retained the rank in the new one.

The change meant the long serving Oil Minister Sheik Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa was dropped from the Cabinet. He was named adviser to the prime minister.

Bahrain is a small oil producer, producing about 190,000 barrels a day. However, earnings from oil make up the bulk of government revenue.

The royal family maintained its dominance of the Cabinet. Eleven of the 22 Cabinet seats are in the hands of royal family members, including the key portfolios of foreign affairs, defense, interior and finance.

The prime minister, who retained his post, is the king's uncle, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Sheik Khalifa's son Sheik Ali, the transportation minister, was promoted to deputy prime minister in the reshuffle.

The reshuffle was Bahrain's third since parliament was reinstated in 2002 after a suspension of almost 30 years.


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