Jordan appoints new spy chief

Jordan's King Abdullah II has named a new intelligence chief to replace Samih Asfoura who resigned.

    King Abdullah II announced the new chief on Tuesday

    Major-General Mohamed al-Zahabi, a Western-trained career intelligence officer, was assigned the post of head of the General Intelligence Department (GID), the Mukhabarat, on Tuesday, reports Aljazeera's correspondent.

    Al-Zahabi is known as one of the country's top anti-terrorism officers and has served in Jordan's General Intelligence Department for more than 20 years.

    The appointment comes as Jordan continues its political and security overhaul after last month's deadly hotel bombings.

    A new cabinet was officially approved on Tuesday after winning a landslide parliamentary vote of confidence.

    Marouf al-Bakhit, the new prime minister, and his 23 ministers received 86 votes of support from the 110-member parliament. Twenty voted against it, one lawmaker abstained and three were absent.

    Security needs

    The vote was necessary to install the cabinet as it was appointed by Abdullah, who wields absolute power under the constitution, including appointing prime ministers, dissolving parliament and ruling by decree.

    Amman's triple bombings, claimed by the al-Qaida in Iraq, headed by Jordanian-born fighter Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, were the country's deadliest ever attacks and were followed by a major shake-up of political and security posts in the US-allied Arab kingdom.

    Amman's triple bombings were
    the country's deadliest attacks

    "Security secures the citizen's main needs and guarantees the freedom of expression, work and education within the framework of the law," al-Bakhit told lawmakers, who debated his government's policies during the past three days.

    Al-Bakhit confirmed that his government will launch a national strategy to ensure security, but not curtail freedoms.

    He also vowed to continue with reforms, fight corruption and poverty and provide Jordanians with a comprehensive health insurance plan.

    Asfoura handed his notice of resignation on Tuesday to Abdullah who accepted it and named al-Zahabi immediately to fill the vacancy, the official Petra news agency reported.

    No reason was given for Asfoura's resignation. Asfoura was also believed to have been suffering from heart problems, which may have been a factor in his decision to step down.

    Speculation

    It was not immediately clear if Asfoura would be appointed to another position within the government, but there has been speculation that he may become the next national security adviser to Abdullah.

    Government insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were unauthorised to release details to the media, have said the changes were expected before the bombings, but the attacks speeded up the process.

    The new cabinet was officially
    approved on Tuesday

    Further changes are expected within the upper echelons of the police forces and the military in a bid to reinvigorate the security services and replace ageing leaders.

    In a related development, al-Bakhit said his government had established an office to follow-up the case of the abduction of the Jordanian ambassador's driver in Baghdad.
     
    Al-Bakhit also said the government was seriously considering moving the Jordanian embassy in Iraq to the Green Zone or the military hospital in Falluja.
     
    In a separate development, the Jordanian government has denied entry  for the former Iraqi officials who were released by US forces on Monday.
     
    An official source said the denial related to the absence of advance information on the release, Aljazeera's correspondent in Amman said.

    The source added that the leader of the Iraqi Scholars Front, Sattam al-Kaoud, would be permitted to enter Jordan as he had a valid residency permit.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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