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French Version

Jordan's king strongly urges anti-terror strategy

'These attacks impose the largest security challenge'

Jordan's King Abdullah II opened Parliament Thursday with a vigorous call for a strategy to confront terrorism, saying security and stability were a greater priority than ever following the November 9 suicide bombings of three Amman hotels.

Abdullah told lawmakers that the blasts claimed by the Al-Qaeda in Iraq group targeted Jordan because of its "location, its message and positions" - a reference his nation's pro-Western outlook, its embrace of moderate Islam and its lying between Israel and Iraq.

"These attacks impose upon [Jordan] the largest security challenge to ever confront it," the king told a joint session of the upper and lower chambers, interrupted by loud applause and cries of "Long live the king!" "Thus, a security strategy capable of dealing with these changed circumstances and containing these challenges is in order," he said. "This requires the drafting of legislation that serves this strategy to ensure that Jordan will remain as it always has been: an oasis of security and stability and a haven for freedom where human rights are respected."

Wearing a black and gold military uniform, the king praised the security forces for the way they handled the deadliest outrage in the country's history. Three suicide bombers killed 60 people and wounded hundreds of others.

"When the hand of the traitors targeted Jordan's security and terrorized its innocent citizens and guests, the country passed, with great success, a critical test of its security and stability," he said.

Following the attacks, the king swore in a new government and tasked its prime minister - a tough former major general, Maarouf al-Bakhit - with maintaining a balance between security and freedom. The monarch asked the Cabinet to draft a new anti-terrorism law.

A week after the attacks, then Interior Minister Yawni Yervas said a committee had been set up to draft a new anti-terror law.

"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," he said.

He was referring to a rocket attack targeting a U.S. warship in the port of Aqaba on August 19 which killed a Jordanian soldier.

Abdullah acknowledged the strain of Jordan's poverty and unemployment.

"I feel the suffering of my people, and I know the extent of economic difficulties they are facing due to the rise of prices, poverty and unemployment," he said. He urged lawmakers to pass laws that would "relieve the people's suffering."

He appeared to reprimand conservative legislators who have often blocked progressive bills, such as those that would increase women's freedom and give them the right to divorce.

"We are at a new threshold of the reform and modernization march, and confronting the challenges imposed upon us by difficult regional circumstances requires each and every one of us to rise to the challenge at this moment," he said. "It requires that Parliament deal with the government with a sense of responsibility."

He reiterated Jordan's support for the Palestinians and said the country would continue to back the Iraqi people "until Iraq is restored to its natural status and its citizens enjoy decent, free and secure life."

The Chamber of Deputies, the elected Lower House, later chose Abdel-Hadi Majali, a former chief of police and Cabinet minister, as the Parliament's speaker. Majali, who leads a right-leaning bloc, won 69 votes against 38 for tribal contestant Saad Hayel Srour.

The Daily Star

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