Jordan's Muslim opposition to resume protests

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2011 11:44 AM
Jordan's Muslim opposition to resume protests

Jordan's powerful Muslim Brotherhood vowed to resume protests, saying Tuesday that the government did not keep a promise of speedy reforms.

The announcement puts added pressure on Jordan's King Abdullah II to give up some of his sweeping powers, but is not seen as a threat to his rule. Opposition figures have called on the king to surrender the authority to appoint Cabinets and dissolve parliament.

Under pressure from street protests inspired by uprisings roiling the Arab world, Abdullah instructed his government earlier this month to enact "quick and real" political reforms, allowing greater public say in the decision-making.

However, protesters say little has been done so far to meet their demands, such as changing a controversial election law, which the Brotherhood says favors the king's loyalists. The Brotherhood is Jordan's largest opposition group.

The Brotherhood and its political wing, the Islamic Action Front, had refrained from participating in protests for the past two weeks, saying they wanted to give newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit a chance to carry out reforms.

However, Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu-Bakr said Tuesday that the government installed on Feb. 9 has not carried out the promised reforms.

He condemned attacks on protesters last Friday in Amman, which saw eight wounded in the first violence in weeks of demonstrations.

Abu-Bakr claimed that "thugs" were used or hired to carry out "aggression by groups that do not want reforms."

He urged the government to take action against those behind the attack and move quickly toward reform.

Meanwhile, Jordan urged Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to halt his bloody crackdown on a weeklong uprising in the North African nation, signaling growing frustration across the Middle East with the longtime ruler's harsh response.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Kayed said that "spilling the blood of the brotherly Libyan people must stop immediately."

Jordan's relations with Libya have often been bumpy because Gadhafi is a vocal critic of Jordan's peace treaty with Israel.

About 500 protesters, including eight Jordanian women lawmakers, unionists and Brotherhood leaders gathered outside the Libyan embassy in Amman, demanding Gadhafi's ouster. They chanted: "Gadhafi, get out; Libya must be freed."

Also Tuesday, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh sent a supportive message to Bahrain, where anti-government protests have rattled the monarchy.

Jordan has historically maintained warm relations with Bahrain, another Arab kingdom with similar pro-Western outlook and close alliance with the United States.

Jordan is concerned that unseating the Bahraini king would set a precedent, ultimately undermining other Arab monarchies.

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Associated Press writers Jamal Halaby and Sameer N. Yacoub in Amman contributed reporting.