Kuwait Closes Iran Cultural Mission, Expels Diplomats

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah welcomes Iran's President Hassan Rouhani to Kuwait in February [AP]
Kuwait is closing the Iranian cultural mission and related offices in the Gulf Arab state and reducing the number of Iranian diplomats stationed in the country, according to the official news agency, KUNA.

KUNA said on Thursday the move is related to the case of a "terrorist" cell broken up in 2015 that authorities allege had contacts with Iran and Hezbollah.

The KUNA report says the Iranian ambassador to Kuwait has been notified.

Last month, the Kuwait's supreme court sentenced the suspected leader of the cell to life in jail and condemned 20 others to various prison terms.

State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah al-Sabah, who is also acting information minister, confirmed that Kuwait had taken diplomatic action against Iran but declined to specify the measures.

"Following the supreme court ruling on the case ... the government of Kuwait has decided to take measures, in accordance with diplomatic norms and the Vienna Convention, towards its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran," Sabah told AFP news agency.

The supreme court, whose rulings are final, overturned the acquittal of the suspects on June 18 and sentenced them to between five and 15 years in prison.

Kuwait's interior ministry confirmed on Tuesday that 14 of the cell's 26 members were on the run, but said that they had not left the country through official exit points.

When the cell was broken up in 2015, large quantities of arms, ammunition and explosives were seized from them, according to Kuwaiti authorities.

The row comes as Kuwait attempts to mediate an end to the Gulf's worst diplomatic crisis in years, after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar over accusations it supports "terrorism", an allegation Doha rejects as "baseless".(alj)

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