Jordanian cabinet sworn in

Jordan's King Abdullah II has sworn in a new cabinet led by his former national security chief, who pledged to restore the nation's reputation for stability in the Middle East while nurturing reforms.

    King Abdullah (L) congratulates Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit

    Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit told Abdullah after the brief ceremony on Sunday that "security and stability will remain a Jordanian distinction, despite the terrorist incident which targeted innocent people in the capital of your kingdom".

    Al-Bakhit was designated prime minister after the 9 November triple Amman hotel blasts that killed 63 people, including the three Iraqi bombers.

    "My government will maintain the balance between freedom and security and we will not allow one to dominate the other," he said.

    Abdullah issued a royal decree endorsing al-Bakhit's 24-member cabinet, including nine holdovers - mainly the economic team, such as the trade and industry and planning portfolios - from the outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister Adnan Badran, which resigned on Thursday.

    The bombings only "strengthened our resolve to continue our pre-emptive war on terrorism and the Takfiri culture, which is alien to our society", he added, referring to the ideology of Muslims who regard other Muslims who disagree with their doctrine as infidels.

    Al-Bakhit vowed to press ahead with reforms, saying they will "neither be unilateral, nor just slogans, but a comprehensive and integrated programme".

    New laws

    An early step would be the introduction of new laws governing parliamentary elections and political parties.

    King Abdullah II (C) sits with his
    new 24-member government

    These two laws are widely criticised by hardline opposition groups as restrictive and meant to strengthen the hand of the state.

    The new prime minister promised dialogue with the entire political spectrum and the participation of all in decision-making, particularly on issues related to national policies, including socio-economic plans.

    He said a top priority would be to fight rampant poverty and unemployment.

    On Thursday, Abdullah designated al-Bakhit to form a new government and launch a "relentless" war on extremism, while pressing ahead with economic and political reforms.

    In newspaper remarks on Saturday, al-Bakhit denied that the hotel bombings were the reason for the major reshuffle of the kingdom's government.

    Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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