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Jordan Prime Minister Appointed

June 19, 2000

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ King Abdullah II accepted the resignation of the government Sunday and appointed a new prime minister viewed as a keen supporter of economic reform.

In a royal message to outgoing Prime Minister Abdur-Ra’uf Rawabdeh, the king expressed his appreciation to the previous government.

``I accept your resignation, as you and your team wanted to rest,″ the king said in the decree, which was reported on Jordan Television. ``You and your colleagues worked hard, sincerely, with devotion and trust that helped you succeed in the face of many challenges.″

Rawabdeh’s resignation was widely expected after parliament criticized the government’s progress on political and economic reforms.

Economist Ali Abu Ragheb, 54, was asked by the king to form a Cabinet, and has begun consultations with officials and lawmakers. He told Jordan Television on Sunday that he planned to keep ten ministers from the previous Cabinet, including those of foreign affairs, finance, trade and industry, tourism and labor. The new Cabinet was expected to be finished by Monday morning.

Abu Ragheb was also expected to address the business community’s displeasure over the country’s strained ties with Iraq, which have hurt foreign trade.

Very little is known about Abu Ragheb’s views on Israel, with which Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. Relations with Israel are a sensitive issue in Jordan, where about 60 percent of its 5 million people are ethnic Palestinians. Abu Ragheb is of Palestinian descent.

The Amman-born Abu Ragheb was industry and trade minister in 1991 and energy minister in 1995-1996. He was trade and industry minister again in 1996 and 1997.

He did not hold any post in Rawabdeh’s government, which was the first appointed by Abdullah after he ascended the throne in February 1999 following the death of his father, King Hussein.

Abu Ragheb, who has been a lawmaker since 1993, was head of the economic and financial committee in parliament and a member of the Royal Economic Consultative Council.

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