- Associated Press - Thursday, February 3, 2011

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s powerful Muslim opposition has rejected an offer from the country’s newly appointed prime minister to join his Cabinet, the group’s leader said Thursday.

Hamza Mansour, the head of the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, said he turned down the invitation from prime minister-designate Marouf al-Bakhit in a meeting late Wednesday because “the current political conditions do not allow us to participate in the government.”

“We are looking for a reformist government that will bring about real change,” Mr. Mansour said. He added that Mr. al-Bakhit, an ex-army general, is a “military man incapable of introducing needed reforms.”

King Abdullah II on Tuesday fired his government and named Mr. al-Bakhit to head a new one, tasking him with implementing reforms to boost economic opportunities and give Jordanians a greater say in politics. The move came in response to public pressure generated by protests inspired by those in Tunisia and Egypt.

The sacked government had been widely accused of failing to expand public freedoms and reduce unemployment, inflation and rising prices of food and fuel.

Abdullah was expected to meet with Brotherhood leaders later Thursday, according to group members, who insisted on anonymity because they were not allowed to confirm the meeting. Abdullah’s aides also declined comment.

The Brotherhood wants constitutional amendments to curb Abdullah’s power in naming prime ministers, arguing that the post should go to the elected leader of the parliamentary majority. Jordan’s constitution gives the king the exclusive powers to appoint prime ministers, dismiss parliament and rule by decree.

The Brotherhood also wants to change a disputed election law it claims gerrymandered districts in favor of the government’s supporters. The Brotherhood boycotted last November’s parliamentary elections in protest.

The Brotherhood also accuses Mr. al-Bakhit of “fixing” parliamentary elections in his previous stint as prime minister from 2005 to 2007. Hours after he was appointed, the fundamentalist group demanded that he stand down.

Mr. al-Bakhit also was holding talks with other political parties, including leftist opposition groups, as he tries to cobble together a new Cabinet, which is expected to be announced in the coming days.

In a meeting with lawmakers Wednesday, Mr. al-Bakhit pledged to quickly introduce “real and comprehensive reforms.”

“We will have a plan to present to parliament and will carry out democratic changes,” Mr. al-Bakhit said. “We will try to improve economic conditions so that our citizens can feel results soon.”

Abdullah ordered Mr. al-Bakhit to move quickly to give Jordanians a greater say in politics and tackle worsening economic conditions, such as swelling poverty and unemployment running at 12 percent.

Jordan’s closest Western allies — the United States and Britain — have expressed concern over Abdullah’s progress with reforms.

Wikileaks documents published Thursday in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten cited a cable by the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, Stephen Beecroft, in 2009 as saying that Abdullah “as a progressive reformer, often fails to match up with his actions on the ground.”

British Foreign Office Minister David Howell said in a statement Thursday that the U.K. was closely monitoring events in Jordan. He said it was “important that Jordan continues its program of political and economic reform,” and pledged assistance from Britain’s government.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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