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Jordan to Introduce Democratic Reform (AP) By JAMAL HALABY AMMAN, JORDAN 01/27/05 12:37 AM)Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40358-2005Jan27.html AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
AMMAN, Jordan - King Abdullah II, while urging citizens in neighboring Iraq to vote in this weekend´s elections, said he would introduce some limited democratic reforms in his kingdom.

In a televised speech, Abdullah said he wanted to "address all our brethren in Iraq, of all groups and spectrums, and call on them to take part in the elections to be held in a few days."

The king then unveiled plans to establish elected councils to oversee development in Jordan. He did not explain how the new councils would work with existing local authorities, half of whose members are appointed by the government.

"I assert here that political development should start at the grass roots, then move up to decision-making centers, and not vice versa," the king said.

Abdullah spoke only hours after President Bush urged him at a Washington press conference to "make sure that democracy continues to advance in Jordan."

Jordanian government officials, insisting on anonymity, stressed that Abdullah´s announcement was not linked to Bush´s call because the king had recorded his speech much earlier.

Bush made the statement in reply to a question on whether he would condemn the Jordanian government for arresting a man and charging him with slander after he delivered a lecture called "Why We Boycott America."

Regarding the vote in neighboring Iraq, Abdullah´s reference to "all groups" appeared to be an implicit appeal to Sunni Muslims who have threatened to boycott Sunday´s polls.

"The elections are the only realistic way for the Iraqis to achieve security and stability, rebuild their country, and ensure that Iraq regains its natural and special status within the region," added Abdullah, whose country is concerned that Shiite victory in the polls may ultimately lead to the emergence of an Iranian-style strict Islamic state in Iraq.

Abdullah angered Iran last month, when he warned of a possible Shiite hegemony in the region. In an interview with the Washington Post, the king accused Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran of trying to influence the elections in Iraq, where Shiite candidates are expected to fare well.

Since ascending to the throne five years ago, Abdullah has sought to press ahead with reforms introduced by his late father, King Hussein, who died in 1999. A computer and Internet enthusiast, Abdullah wants to make Jordan a regional information technology hub. He also wants to see his nation geared toward open-market economy and globalization and has introduced relevant legislation in recent years. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 01/27/05)

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