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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oman reshuffles cabinet

MUSCAT (Reuters) - Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said reshuffled his cabinet on Saturday, changing six ministers, one week after a rare demonstration calling for political reform.

The state news agency ONA said Qaboos issued a decree naming Mohammed bin Nasser al-Khasibi as commerce and industry minister, Hamoud bin Faisal al-Bousaidi as civil service minister and Madiha bint Ahmed bin Nasser as education minister.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Harthy, the outgoing civil service minister, was appointed to head the environment ministry in the Gulf Arab state, while Maqboul bin Ali bin Sultan will be the new transport minister, the agency said.

The decree also named Mohsen bin Mohammed al-Sheikh as tourism minister and said the reshuffle was carried out in the "public's interest," without elaborating.

On February 19, about 300 people demanded political reforms and better pay in a peaceful protest in Oman as unrest in other Middle East countries and North Africa turned increasingly violent.

Earlier this month, the sultanate increased the salary for national workers active in the private sector by 43 percent to $520 per month, ONA said.

There is no official unemployment rate, but a CIA estimate from 2004 put the rate then at about 15 percent.

Gulf Arab countries have stepped up measures to appease their populations following popular unrest that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved.

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