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Jordan’s King Abdullah Met With Islamic Action Front Today

Jordan’s King Abdullah today met with Islamic leaders who’ve been calling for political and economic changes after the appointment of a new premier this week.

In the meeting, the king stressed the need for “practical and effective steps to achieve the required progress in the political reform process,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Royal Court.

King Abdullah replaced Prime Minister Samir Rifai this week with Marouf Bakhit, a former prime minister, and asked him to form a new government and to act quickly to “launch a genuine political reform process.”

The change followed street protests in Egypt demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The protests in Egypt were inspired by a revolt in Tunisia that forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile on Jan. 14.

“Economic reform must continue to ensure a better life for all citizens and will not reach its required level without political reform,” Abdullah said during the meeting according to a statement.

Jordan, one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, imports more than 90 percent of its oil and relies on foreign investment and grants to finance its budget and current account deficit.

‘Real Reforms’

The country’s economy grew 2.3 percent in 2009. Economic growth may accelerate to as much as 6 percent this year from an expected 3.4 percent in 2010, outgoing Finance Minister Mohammad Abu Hammour said in a Jan. 22 interview.

“The prime minister asked if we wished or had an interest to join the government and we said we don’t have any such intention at this stage,” Hamzah Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group in Jordan said in an interview today.

In an interview earlier this week, Mansour called for “real reforms like the manner in which the government is formed, the way lawmakers are elected and the issue of taxes.”

The Front, which hasn’t called for regime change, is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group in Jordan.

“There are protests in Jordan, however, they are not like those in Tunisia and Egypt,” said Mohammad Masri, a researcher at Jordan University’s Center for Strategic Studies. “What you have in Jordan are protests organized by political parties and social groups, it’s not a popular uprising.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon at mderhally@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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