World and Nation

Jordan’s King meets with Muslim Brotherhood, fights corruption

AMMAN, Jordan — King Abdullah II, struggling to stave off growing public discontent, widened his political outreach Thursday and met with the Muslim Brotherhood for the first time in nearly a decade. He also asserted in a statement that he would fight corruption and foster a broad national dialogue.

The statement from the royal court said, “The king reaffirmed in a meeting with a delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front that it is important for them to work together to press political reform that will increase the role of citizens in decision making.”

A Muslim Brotherhood leader, Zaki Bani Rsheid, said earlier in an interview in his Amman office that the newly appointed prime minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, had offered the movement a role in his government but that it had turned him down.

“We refused because we want the prime minister to be elected, not appointed by the king, and we want real elections,” he said. “We are willing to be a partner but in a real government.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is estimated to have the support of 25 percent to 30 percent of Jordan’s 6 million people. It was expected to lead modest demonstrations Friday calling for democratic steps, although others who had taken part in past weeks said they would hold off and evaluate the nature of the new government.

On Tuesday, after weeks of low-level protests demanding change here — and after huge street revolts brought political upheaval to Tunisia and Egypt — Abdullah fired his Cabinet and appointed al-Bakhit prime minister. The king publicly instructed him to pursue democratic reforms and reach out to a broad range of constituents. Al-Bakhit has held many consultations in preparation for forming his government, in itself a rare step here.

Abdullah, who turned 49 on Sunday and has been on the throne for 12 years, is clearly shaken by events in the region and in his own country. He has been paying surprise visits in recent days to poor areas and villages and ordering assistance to the families he has encountered.

Thursday’s statement acknowledged the failure of recent efforts at reform, blaming “people who put their personal interests above the public interest, fear of change and hesitation in making decisions.” It said the king expected the new government to start a comprehensive national dialogue that included all segments of society.

It added that a new electoral law should be drafted that would attract political parties to take part in elections and that all the country’s issues should be discussed publicly “with transparency, openness and clarity.” It vowed tough punishment for anyone involved in corruption, saying, “no one is above the law.”