Jordan's king pledges tough line on terror but vows more openness
King Abdullah of Jordan reiterated on November 15 he would not let the recent suicide attacks that killed 57 people in Amman derail much-vaunted political and economic reforms or his pro-western policies.
In an interview with foreign newspapers including the Financial Times, he rejected accusations that he and his government had lost credibility or failed in the campaign to promote moderate Islam, saying the battle against extremism would take decades.
"There's a problem inside of Islam. The problem is not Jordan or the United States or Saudi Arabia," the king maintained.
The recent attacks left Jordanians shocked and sparked protests even though many had predicted such an event given Jordan's support in the US-led war against Saddam Hussein in neighbouring Iraq, where insurgents carry out almost daily attacks.
Eleven top Jordanian officials, including the kingdom's national security adviser, resigned in the wake of the recent triple hotel bombings, state-run TV announced.
King Abdullah appointed Marouf al-Bakhit, Jordan's ambassador to Israel, to replace his outgoing security chief Saad Kheir, a former chief of Jordan's intelligence department.
Jordan has been left struggling to balance a security crackdown to prevent further attacks while forging ahead with promised changes towards greater political participation and openness.
King Abdullah defended the decision to air on state television the confession of a would-be suicide bomber who failed to detonate her explosives recently.
He said that the capture later of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, who was the wife of one of the three suicide bombers that targeted three hotels, came about after al-Qaeda in Iraq led by Jordanian born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a claim on the internet saying three men and a woman were involved.
"The public wanted to know that we've got her," said the king. "She's giving us leads and we want to make sure we get the whole network."
He also said she had only recently married.
"This is what they call a marriage of convenience because they [the extremists] have their ethics that if a woman is to go and kill innocent people, she has to be accompanied by a husband."
The attacks appear to have seriously eroded support for al-Qaeda, which was registered in recent opinion polls at around 60 per cent.
A recent survey in Al Ghad newspaper shows some 86 per cent of respondents roundly condemning al-Qaeda.
The Jordanian authorities are taking no chances and introduced strict anti-terror measures, including the demand that all foreigners renting properties be reported to the authorities within 48 hours.
The suicide bombers, who were all Iraqis, travelled to Jordan only days before the attack.
The Interior Ministry is also planning legislation, including the power to hold any suspect indefinitely, that would add to the arsenal of the intelligence services, which already dominate public life inside the country.
Nonetheless, King Abdullah said the government would push ahead with its National Agenda of reforms, including efforts to encourage political parties and lessen tribalism, speed up privatisation and introduce a flat tax rate.
The king is also working with the European Union (EU) on plans to abolish capital punishment.
"We want to lead as the first country in the Middle East to do away with capital punishment," he said.
Under syndication arrangement with FE