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Jordan’s Prime Minister Resigns After Six Months

Jordan’s King Abdullah asked Fayez al-Tarawneh, a former prime minister who once headed the kingdom’s peace talks with Israel, to form a new cabinet after accepting the resignation of Awn Al Khasawneh.

“His Royal Majesty, King Abdullah II asked Dr. Fayez al-Tarawneh to form a new government after the resignation of the government of Awn al-Khasawneh today,” according to a statement on the official Petra news agency.

Tarawneh is also a former chief of the royal court, foreign minister, and ambassador to the U.S. He headed the Jordanian delegation to the negotiations with Israel that led to the peace agreement in 1994.

Khasawneh, 62, resigned in a surprise move, six months after King Abdullah appointed the former judge at the International Court of Justice with a mandate to speed political change in the country. He had replaced Marouf Bakhit, a former army general who critics said was slow to implement political and economic changes following protests inspired by a wave of popular uprisings across the Arab world that ousted leaders in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Libya.

Jordan, one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, relies on foreign investment and grants to support its budget and current-account deficits. The government has increased public sector salaries and subsidies since protests broke out last year.

Resignation ‘Surprise’

Confirmation of Khasawneh’s resignation ended confusion following conflicting reports earlier today. His departure was first reported by the Al-Quds Al-Araby newspaper and then swiftly denied in a statement on Petra. That denial was subsequently corrected by the official news agency.

“The resignation came as a surprise” and was submitted by Khasawneh while on a trip abroad, Fahed Kheetan, a columnist for Al Ghad independent newspaper said. Khasawneh resigned following disagreements with the Royal Court on the program for change, he said by phone in Amman.

Khasawneh’s resignation “will delay the reform process” as authorities’ priority will now shift toward the formation of a new government, he said. “It will then be difficult to hold parliamentary elections before the end of the year as previously promised,” he said.

King Abdullah changed the government twice last year and promised to ease restraints on political parties and allow the formation of administrations based on a parliamentary majority, without saying when this might happen.

Legal Adviser

“Political reform characterizes the current phase in the journey of our beloved Jordan,” Abdullah wrote last year.

Khasawneh is a former chief of the royal court and previously served as a legal adviser to the late King Hussein, father of the current monarch.

Jordan’s opposition, made up largely of Islamist groups that oppose peace with Israel as well as members of the communist party, staged protests last year to demand change and an end to corruption, inspired by revolts elsewhere in the Middle East.

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