Abdullah on Sunday asked Prime Minister Adnan Badran to swiftly draft legislation governing the functions of the Anti-Corruption Authority and send it to parliament for approval.

"We need to come out with a clear strategy to fight corruption and the corrupt and to start implementing it so that Jordan would always remain a sanctuary for justice and integrity," he said in a four-page letter made available to The Associated Press.

The king said the new body "will consolidate our efforts in reforming, modernising and developing government institutions, especially in administration and the judiciary".

He instructed the government to cast off "nepotism and favoritism", which he said were other "forms of corruption".

Reforms

Since his ascension to the throne in 1999, Abdullah has sought to speed reforms. He allowed a freer media to emerge under more flexible laws that also advocate more freedom for women, improved healthcare services and education.

In January, Abdullah announced plans to form elected councils that will oversee development across the desert kingdom, a move meant to give wider autonomy to outlying communities.

The king has promised a 10-year "national agenda", policies the Jordanian government says will overhaul all sectors, including political - a plan that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed in a visit last week, saying it "will strengthen grass-root democracy here in Jordan".

Critics have accused successive cabinets of corruption, but the state says individuals, not governments, could be responsible for "insignificant" irregularities, considering stringent laws put in place under Abdullah that made top government officials susceptible to questioning.

In July 2003, Jordan's military court sentenced intelligence chief Sameeh Batikhi to four years in jail for fraud and embezzlement in a case involving questionable loans to businessmen.