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French Version

Jordan's king shakes up security services

A week after the devastating hotel bombings in Jordan that shook one of the most stable Arab countries, King Abdullah II has replaced his top security adviser and is preparing a tough new anti-terror law.

The king also appointed a new chief of staff at the royal palace and nine of his advisers resigned, although officials insisted Wednesday the reshuffle was not linked to the November 9 triple suicide attacks.

Interior Minister Awni Yervas said he has urged a four-member committee of top interior ministry officials to draw up new anti-terror legislation to be ready when Parliament reconvenes from a recess on December 1.

Officials said the new law will give the authorities power to hold any terror suspect for questioning indefinitely.

"A new law was already being worked on after the Aqaba attack in August, but the government has [now] decided to give it an urgent priority," Yervas said.

Yervas said the legislation was likely to take elements from laws in Britain "a country attached to freedoms" and other Arab states, insisting it "will not affect the freedoms of the Jordanian people."

The changes at the royal court had been due to be announced on November 10, but were delayed because of the bombings, a senior court official said.

"There is no link whatsoever between the resignations and the terrorist attacks," the official said.

Nine advisers to King Abdullah also stepped down from "honorary" posts usually held by officials ahead of their retirement, he said.

The monarch appointed career diplomat Maaruf al-Bakhit, a former ambassador to Israel recalled home seven months ago, as director of national security to replace Saad Khair whose retirement had been set to be announced last week.

He named Salem al-Turk, who was deputy army chief of staff in the 1990s, as new chief of staff at the royal court.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Adnan Badran said the failed woman bomber Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi was arrested while trying to find refuge with relatives in northwestern Jordan following a tip-off from residents.

After the attacks the woman "first went to the apartment that the group had rented on November 7 in Tlaa al-Ali" a residential neighborhood in western Amman, Badran said.

"Afterward she went to Salt hoping to find safe haven among the family," he said.

According to an opinion poll published Wednesday, nine out of 10 Jordanians said they consider Zarqawi's group a "terrorist" organization and said they believed its attacks "harm ... Arab and Muslim causes."

King Abdullah also urged the world's Muslims to reject the "heretics" who espouse terror, saying the long-term battle to defeat extremism required a cultural shift, according to remarks published Wednesday.

Abdullah said in an interview with Milan daily Corriere della Sera that authorities throughout the Middle East must teach in schools, mosques and at all public occasions that extremists do not represent Islam.

"Our populations must ask themselves: Do those who blow themselves up in the middle of a feast with innocent elderly, women and children really represent our religion?" Abdullah said.

The Daily Star

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