JIDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA, NOV. 18 -- Sultan Qabus of Oman, saying he wanted his people to have "more opportunities for participation" in government, today announced plans to widen representation in his country's consultative assembly within a year. But he did not say whether the members would be elected. Currently, they are appointed.
"In fulfillment of our promises for giving the people more opportunities for participation and holding responsibility, we decided to form a consultative council representing all the sultanate's provinces," Qabus said, adding that "there will be no government membership" in the new assembly.
The present 55-member assembly includes 19 government representatives, and its role is confined to commenting on economic and social issues and policy recommendations.
The Omani leader said the change was in line with his long-held plans for the sultanate. But his announcement was seen as another indication of the increasing sensitivity among rulers in the Arab states on the gulf to demands for greater political roles by their middle class.
Qabus's announcement came 10 days after Saudi Arabia's King Fahd said that "final touches" were being put on plans for a consultative assembly here, but Fahd gave no timetable and also did not say whether members would be elected.
A source in Muscat, Oman's capital, said by phone that it is possible the new assembly will be elected.