Opposition politicianWalid al Tabtabae leads prayers before protests near Kuwait City financial centre [Reuters]

Thousands of youth activists have rallied in Kuwait for the removal of the prime minister, pushing the oil-rich Gulf state closer to political turmoil.

"The people want to topple the prime minister," chanted more than 3,000 protesters late on Friday night for the third straight week, braving temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius in the desert state.

Speakers called on the emir to remove Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the prime minister, and put an end to bitter feuds among members of the al-Sabah ruling family.

"A dangerous (power) struggle is taking place among members of the ruling family. Their disputes and struggles will certainly negatively impact us," liberal MP Abdulrahman al-Anjari told the crowd.

"I am afraid that if no real constitutional reforms are implemented, these disputes will spread like cancer. We have to contemplate adopting constitutional monarchy," al-Anjari said.

Family feud

Kuwaiti media on Friday had urged Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to put an end to a power struggle between the prime minister and his deputy Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, following a stormy parliamentary session on Tuesday.

Speakers at the rally, however, said both officials should be sacked.

They also called for the government to be dismissed, for parliament to be dissolved and for snap elections to be held.

OPEC member Kuwait has been rocked by a series of political disputes over the past five years, which have been blamed in part on squabbling within the ruling family.

In 2006, a power struggle among the al-Sabahs resulted in an unprecedented vote by parliament to remove the then emir, Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, on health grounds.

Since February 2006, when Sheikh Nasser became prime minister, six cabinets have resigned and parliament has been dissolved three times amid high political tension that has stalled development in this wealthy state.

The ruling family has run the affairs of Kuwait since it came into existence more than 250 years ago, and Kuwaitis have seldom questioned their continuing rule.

The emir, crown prince and the prime minister are all from the family, which also controls the key ministerial portfolios of defence, interior and foreign affairs.

Source: Agencies