King Affirms Commitment to Democracy; Warns Extremists
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ King Hussein opened a new Parliament session Tuesday by affirming his commitment to pursue democracy and warning extremists not to undermine it.
In attendance were two lawmakers the king pardoned after they were sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for plotting to overthrow the monarchy and establish an Islamic state.
The king said this showed ″our adhering to democracy firmly ... and protecting it from extremism, so that peaceful dialogue will become the tradition to which we resort in resolving every disagreement.″
Abdul Latif Arabiyat, an activist of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood Movement, was re-elected speaker of the house for a one-year term in a vote taken after Hussein’s speech.
He won 58 votes against 18 for independent candidate Ali Faqir, a former minister of religious affairs. Three members abstained. A fourth, one of the two pardoned last month, walked out before the vote.
During the past three years, Hussein has abolished martial laws in force since 1967, freed political detainees, relaxed media censorship and set the stage for a multiparty political system.
In the 1989 elections, the Brotherhood captured 22 seats in the 80-seat Chamber of Deputies.
Jordanian fundamentalists, led by the brotherhood, advocate the elimination of Israel and oppose the 1-year-old, U.S.-sponsored Arab-Israeli peace talks. Hussein on Tuesday promised to continue the talks.
Despite political differences, the brotherhood is largely loyal to the king.
Hussein said he would take no further steps to placate Arab countries that snubbed him because of his support for Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.
Hussein said Jordan would continue its ″unequivocal stand in support of Iraq’s territorial integrity and our opposition to all attempts directed toward its partitioning.″
The Gulf crisis dealt a severe blow to Jordan’s economy, which lost $4 billion in trade and aid from Persian Gulf states and had to absorb an influx of jobless Palestinians deported from Kuwait.
But Hussein cited an unexpected upturn in the economy, with an improved balance of trade and reduced budget deficit.
The upturn has been thanks partly to an injection of $3 billion by wealthy Jordanians kicked out of Kuwait. Their investments are most visible in the construction industry.