Oman council seeks ban on alcohol

Oman`s Shura council has voted to ban alcohol, an official of the advisory body said, a move that, if approved by the cabinet, would bring the sultanate in line with some other conservative Gulf Arab states and could hurt plans to expand tourism.

"The members voted for generalizing the punishment on anyone practice alcohol-related activities including production, dealing, or trading," the official told Reuters. 

"But, of course, this is still a recommendation, not a law by itself." 

Oman, a small non-OPEC oil exporter, has smaller energy reserves than its wealthy Gulf neighbours and is trying to diversify its economy, in part by expanding its tourism sector.

It seeks to become a major destination for cruise tourism.

Currently anyone found producing, consuming or trading alcohol without a permit is liable to a jail term of between 6 months and 3 years, or a minimum fine of 300 Omani rials ($779), or both, the council official said.

Permits to buy and drink alcohol are only issued to non-Muslims, in effect restricting alcohol only to visitors to Oman.

The council on Monday voted to recommend putting a blanket ban on such activities, and making them punishable with a jail term of between 10 days and one year, or a minimum fine of 200 rials, or both. Permits would be abolished.

The council`s action remained only a vote, The Times of Oman newspaper quoted tourism ministry official Maitha Al Mahrooqi as saying. Oman had historically welcomed people from all over the world and would continue to do so.

She added, "We may be putting more rules and regulations in terms of the services and qualities, and not to ban it. That is what I can say at this stage."

($1=0.3850 Omani rials)

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