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Jordan Swears In Premier, Cabinet

October 26, 2003|From Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan's new prime minister was sworn in Saturday, and he pledged to increase democracy and work for a "moderate and tolerant" nation that would be an example for others.

Faisal Fayez, 51, and 20 Cabinet colleagues were sworn in at a brief ceremony at Raghadan Palace in Amman, the capital. Several members of the royal family attended the festivities, which were broadcast live on state television.

King Abdullah II later issued a royal decree naming the new ministers, who for the first time include women. According to the list, Fayez retained nine ministers from the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Ali abu Ragheb.

Most significantly, Fayez kept Marwan Muasher as foreign minister. Jordan has diplomatic relations with Israel and close political and military ties with the United States.

The new Cabinet is strong on technocrats, notably Minister of Planning Bassem Awadallah, a U.S.-educated economist retained from the old government who champions International Monetary Fund reforms for Jordan. The other technocrats include Finance Minister Mohammed abu Hammore, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Mohammed Halaiqa, and Minister of Higher Education Issam Zabalawi.

Fayez reduced the Cabinet from 29 members to 21 and included three women -- a first for a kingdom where male-oriented traditions are strong.

He retained the defense portfolio for himself.

The Information Ministry was abolished. Fayez appointed Asma Khader as minister without portfolio with the responsibility of being the government's spokeswoman. Khader is a prominent lawyer and champion of human rights.

Abu Ragheb, whose Cabinet was accused of limiting public freedoms and doing too little to fight corruption, resigned last week. He formed his Cabinet in June 2000 and reshuffled it six times while overseeing reforms toward a more open market economy.

In an open letter to the king, Fayez said his government would work to build a prosperous Jordan, which would be a "moderate and tolerant Muslim nation that sets an example to others."

Fayez vowed to heed the king's call Wednesday for political liberalization. He said he would work for wider participation of political parties, women and youths in decision-making. He also said he would reform laws concerning political parties and elections and promote a more independent media.

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