Jordan king picks new prime minister

Jordan's King Abdullah II has asked his security chief to form a new government on Thursday to promote reforms in the latest change at the top after the deadly hotel bombings that shook the desert kingdom.

    Adnan Badran (L) has only been prime minister for seven months

    Maaruf Bakhit, 58, a former ambassador to Israel who was appointed just last week as national security chief, has been named to replace Adnan Badran, prime minister for only seven months.

      

    Thursday's revamp, announced by a high-ranking official, comes barely two weeks after the triple bombings in Amman on 9 November that killed 60 people, and was followed by a number of changes in top security and palace staff.

      

    Badran, who has only been premier since April but has been hammered in opinion polls, handed in his resignation to the king on Thursday and Bakhit is expected to form his new cabinet in the next few days.

     

    "Bakhit is a reformist. He is convinced that Jordan must forge ahead with changes to protect itself," a senior official told AFP.

     

    Focus on reforms

     

    "Following the attacks and the threats issued by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordan believes more than ever that reforms spell protection," the official said.

      

    The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's frontman in Iraq, claimed the attacks and warned of more to come in his home country.

      

    Al-Qaida frontman al-Zarqawi
    has threatened to hit Jordan

    Badran, an academic, ran into trouble soon after he announced his cabinet and was forced to reshuffle his government in July under pressure from parliament despite pledges for reform.

     

    An opinion poll published before the bombings showed that approval ratings for the Badran government were the lowest of any administration after 200 days in office.

      

    Since he has been prime minister, the government has raised oil prices twice, in July and in September, triggering dissatisfaction across the cash-strapped country.

     

    On Wednesday, a national panel submitted a 2500-page document for across-the-board political and socio-economic reform over the next 10 years and the king also received a report on plans to overhaul local government as part of efforts to increase public participation in the kingdom's affairs.

      

    National agenda

     

    "Bakhit's duty will be to ensure the implementation of the national agenda," the official said, adding that King Abdullah was determined to "ease Jordanian discontent".

     

    Proposed reforms include the creation of a new election law, expanding press freedoms, bolstering women's rights and revamping the economy.

     

    "Maaruf Bakhit's duty will be to ensure the implementation of the national agenda"


    A Jordanian official

    The announcement coincided with the publication of a report by the Brussels-based think tank, International Crisis Group, which urged the government to push for reforms to avert further attacks.

      

    Bakhit has juggled with a military and diplomatic career and holds a degree in War Studies from King's College, London.

      

    A retired army general, he served as Jordan's coordinator during negotiations with Israel that led to the October 1994 peace treaty between the two neighbours and was later ambassador to Turkey.

      

    Last week King Abdullah appointed career soldier Salem al-Turk as the new chief of staff at the royal palace, while nine advisers resigned. 

    SOURCE: AFP


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