Jordan Islamists say talks with king 'positive'
AMMAN — Jordan's King Abdullah II acknowledged on Thursday in a meeting with Islamist leaders that reforms have "decelerated and stumbled," and pledged "serious steps" for change, the palace said.
"Jordan's reform drive has decelerated and stumbled, which cost the country a lot of chances to achieve progress," a statement quoted the king as telling leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Islamic Action Front (IAF).
"My vision for comprehensive reforms and modernisation must be translated into practical and serious steps focusing on all Jordanians and the country's interests."
The king said he saw a "true chance for comprehensive reforms, which should be a constant approach in Jordan for a better future," the statement said.
The Islamists, who are pushing for more political and economic reforms, called the meeting "positive."
"Our meeting with the king was positive, but I don't want to give details now before the party meets to evaluate the situation," Zaki Bani Rsheid, a member of the IAF executive council, told AFP.
"The party will issue a statement later," he said, but did not elaborate.
A Jordanian official had told AFP on Monday that the king planned to meet the IAF as part of his efforts to address the grievances of Jordanians amid popular discontent.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered support for Jordan Thursday in "difficult times" and said she looked forward to working with its new government when she spoke to the king, her spokesman said.
Clinton in a 15-minute call stressed "the importance that we place on the continued excellent relationship with Jordan. We are eager to continue to support Jordan during these difficult times," Philip Crowley told reporters.
"We're going to support Jordan's efforts to undertake political and economic reform," he said.
On Tuesday the king named Maaruf Bakhit, 64, a career soldier and former premier, as prime minister after sacking the government of Samir Rifai, 43, following weeks of protests to demand political and economic reforms.
He instructed Bakhit to "take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms." However, the powerful IAF criticised the monarch's choice, saying that Bakhit was not a reformist.
The new premier held talks with the Islamists on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Jordan's National Centre for Human Rights warned on Thursday that government "laxity" in introducing and implementing political, economic and social reforms "greatly threaten society and national unity."
"Enhancing freedoms of the public and the press, as well as empowering people to take part in decision-making, are key to reforms," it said in a statement.
It called for a "new electoral law that would genuinely boost democracy" in Jordan.
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