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Jordan king blames premier for slow reform

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 file photo, Awn al-Khasawneh speaks to reporters after his appointment as Jordan's new prime minister in Amman, Jordan. A Jordanian official says the country's prime minister has resigned. The official says King Abdullah II accepted the resignation on Thursday but has not yet named a replacement for Prime Minister Awn al-Khasawneh. FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 file photo, Awn al-Khasawneh speaks to reporters after his appointment as Jordan's new prime minister in Amman, Jordan. A Jordanian official says the country's prime minister has resigned. The official says King Abdullah II accepted the resignation on Thursday but has not yet named a replacement for Prime Minister Awn al-Khasawneh. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)
By Jamal Halaby
Associated Press / April 26, 2012
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AMMAN, Jordan—Jordan's King Abdullah II blamed his resigning prime minister Thursday for failing to push hard enough for reforms, reflecting frustration on all sides over demands for power-sharing and fair representation in parliament.

In a letter to Awn al-Khasawneh, Abdullah complained that "achievements so far are far less than what is required and way below what we expected."

The king appeared to come down on the side of those pushing for swift moves toward a greater say in politics and improved economic conditions in resource-scanty Jordan, which depends on U.S. aid to keep its economy afloat.

Such measures would cut into his own power as absolute ruler.

"We neither have the leisure of time nor the possibility of delinquency and postponement," the king wrote. His letter was read on Jordan TV.

The statement came hours after al-Khasawneh resigned suddenly, just six months after he took office with a pledge to push for political reforms.

He was quickly replaced by Fayez Tarawneh, a veteran politician known to be close to the king. He served as premier more than a decade ago, when Abdullah assumed power.

The sudden switchover in premiers indicated that public pressure may be having some effect.

Jordanian protesters demanding political reforms have been taking to the streets sporadically for the past 15 months, though in smaller numbers than elsewhere in the Arab world, where popular uprisings toppled longtime rulers Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

Abdullah's criticism reflected the deep disagreements between al-Khasawneh and the king over reforms, particularly a law to govern this year's parliamentary elections.

Critics have charged that a previous electoral law favored the king's traditional backers by drawing districts that maximized representation for Bedouin tribes.

Al-Khasawneh was working on a revised bill to even out the representation, but that drew rebuke from Jordan's powerful security services and conservative tribal elders.

Al-Khasawneh resigned over displeasure that the king wanted parliament to extend its session to debate the election law, an official said.

"He wanted a month of rest, during which parliament would go on a recess and then back into a special summer session to debate the reform laws," the official said. "The king wanted parliament to continue working at the same pace until all the laws are debated and endorsed."

He insisted on anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

The official said Tarawneh will form his Cabinet early next week.

Tarawneh, 62, is an ex-ambassador to the U.S. who headed the Jordanian team that negotiated a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. He was prime minister in a Cabinet that oversaw the transition of power to Abdullah from his late father, King Hussein, in 1999.

Tarawneh is a liberal who was known to support popular calls for reforms while serving as a member of the royally-appointed Senate.

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