Maaruf Bakhit assumed office in 2005
Jordan's Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit, seen here in September 2011, has resigned, according to government officials. Bakhit's government has been accused of failing to meet growing demands for reforms. © Safin Hamed - AFP/File
Maaruf Bakhit assumed office in 2005
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Ahmad Khatib, AFP
Last updated: October 17, 2011

Jordan king names PM, security chief to push reform

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday pushed ahead with his political reform plans, appointing a new prime minister and intelligence chief after Maaruf Bakhit's government failed to meet growing calls for change.

The king named International Court of Justice judge Awn Khasawneh, 61, as prime minister, telling him that his government's "top priority is political reform."

"Continuing the political reform drive requires reconsidering and reviewing several laws in line with our new constitution, freedom, pluralism and the rule of law," the king said in a letter to Khasawneh, who has been a member of The Hague-based court since 2000.

"I am entrusting you to form a new government that would enhance reform and modernisation."

Khasawneh told reporters outside his house that the formation of his government "will take several days," adding he has "received guarantees from the king to have full sovereignty as prime minister" and vowing to fight corruption, which is "like cancer."

"We are open to everyone and we welcome the participation of Islamists and other groups in the government. We actually hope they would take part," he said, adding that opposition Islamists are "keen on national stability."

But Hamzeh Mansur, chief of the powerful Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, was cautious.

"It is not a matter of changing people and governments. We have to wait and see the cabinet line-up, its plans and actions," Mansur told AFP.

The appointment followed the resignation earlier Monday of Bakhit, who was named in February, at the request of the monarch following growing public demands that his government quit.

"We have accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit, taking into consideration the views of the various sectors of society as well as a letter we have received from the parliamentary majority," the king said.

Parliament is in recess, but around 70 MPs on Sunday signed a letter to the king, criticising the work of Bakhit. The document has not been made public.

"The appointment of Khasawneh seeks to restore public confidence in the government," political analyst Mohammad Masri told AFP.

"The previous government has created a crisis for the regime, instead of solving problems."

He cited the dismissal of the head of Central Bank last month, and a draft anti-corruption law seen by many as restrictive, as well as dealing violently with pro-reform protesters.

"Bakhit was finished in September, but it was for the king to find a suitable successor," said Masri, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan.

On Saturday, unknown attackers hurled stones and fired shots to disperse participants at an anti-corruption conference in northern Jordan, injuring at least 35 people.

The attack has drawn the ire of the opposition, which has held "the regime responsible" for the incident.

The king also on Monday appointed Major-General Feisal Shobaki as intelligence chief, replacing Mohamad Raqqad, who has held the position since 2008.

Jordan has been the scene of protests since January to demand sweeping economic and political reform.

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