Kuwait held its first camel race using robots as jockeys yesterday after children were banned from the sport in response to criticism by rights groups and the United States.

Twenty-five Swiss-made robots rode camels on a 10-km trial run on the dusty tracks of the Kuwait Camel Racing Club, 50 km southwest of the capital.

The humanoid riders, specially developed for the purpose, are the size and shape of small boys and are operated by remote control.

"The experiment was highly successful. This will prevent the use of children in future races," Shaikh Fahd Al Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah, chairman of Kuwait's top sports body said. "We are going to use only robots for the season beginning October 14."

Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE have banned the use of children in camel racing this year. Experiments with robot jockeys have also been held in the Gulf states.

MP Waleed Al Tabtabai, chairman of parliament's Human Rights Committee, praised the introduction of robots.

"This will prevent the use of child jockeys and distance Gulf countries from allegations of human rights violations and child trafficking," he said.

"It will not be said that there are children from poor countries like Pakistan and India who being are used as child jockeys. We are civilised countries and respect children."

Watching the trial run were US diplomats and camel owners and traders.

"The robots are very good," said trader Saud Nasser Hussain.