New Jordan PM starts work on `reform` govt

New PM began consultations on forming govt charged with passing reforms.

Amman: Jordan`s new premier on Wednesday began
consultations on forming a government charged with passing
reforms and meeting the demands of popular protests, despite
objections from the Islamist opposition.

"Marouf Bakhit will meet today and Thursday with Senate
President Taher Masri and Lower House Speaker Faisal Fayez as
well as heads of parliamentary blocs and committees," a member
of his entourage said.

"He will also hold discussions with heads of all
political parties," mainly Islamist leaders, as well as trade
unions, the source added.

"The composition of the new government should be
announced Saturday or Sunday if the consultations go well," he

King Abdullah II yesterday named Bakhit, 64, a career
soldier and former prime minister, after sacking the
government of Samir Rifai, 43, following weeks of protests to
demand political and economic reforms.

"Bakhit intends to examine all acts suspected of
corruption, including the ones during his tenure between 2005
and 2007," the source said.

The king ordered the new premier to "take practical,
quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms,"
but the powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF) sharply criticised
the monarch`s choice saying Bakhit is not a reformist.

"We urge Bakhit not to accept forming a new government
and give the change to a national personality who is accepted
by the public and who can carry out the needed reforms," the
IAF said in a statement.

Despite government measures to pump around USD 500
million into the economy in a bid to help improve living
conditions, protests have been held in Amman and other cities
over the past three weeks to demand reforms.

More than 150 Islamists, socialists and women rights
activists held a sit-in outside the prime minister`s office
demanding "change."

"Change, change, we demand change. No to Bakhit, no to
Rifai, people want change," they chanted.
They carried banners reading: "Dear government,
beware, we are explosive," and: "It is not about Bakhit or
Rifai, we need forms, we need a representative parliament."

The IAF, the political arm of Jordan`s Muslim
Brotherhood, has said it is planning a similar sit-in on

Tunisia`s popular revolt, which ousted veteran
strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has inspired dissidents
across the Arab world.

In Egypt, demonstrators have been protesting for nine
straight days against President Hosni Mubarak, demanding that
he step down after three decades in power.


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