Jordan's King Abdullah swears in new government to speed reforms

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Jordan's King Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein talk to newly-appointed Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh during a swearing-in ceremony of the new government in Amman, Jordan October 12, 2020. (Reuters)
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Jordan's King Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein attend a swearing-in ceremony of the new government in Amman, Jordan October 12, 2020. (Jordanian Royal Palace/Handout via Reuters)
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Jordan's newly-appointed Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh takes oath during a swearing-in ceremony of the new government in Amman, Jordan October 12, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 October 2020

Jordan's King Abdullah swears in new government to speed reforms

  • The king appointed Bisher al-Khasawneh as the new prime minister
  • The new Cabinet consists of 31 ministers, but more than half of them have served in previous Cabinets as well

AMMAN: Jordan's King Abdullah on Monday swore in a new government led by veteran diplomat Bisher al Khaswaneh that will seek to accelerate IMF-backed reforms as the economy faces its sharpest contraction in decades due to the coronavirus crisis.
British-educated Khasawneh, 51, was appointed on Wednesday to replace Omar al Razzaz, at a time of rising popular discontent about worsening economic conditions and curbs on public freedoms under emergency laws to contain the pandemic.
The new premier, who comes from a family that has long held senior political posts, has spent most of his public career as a veteran diplomat and peace negotiator with Israel with a last stint as palace adviser.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Finance Minister Mohamad Al Ississ, who oversees the country's reform program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), kept their posts in a 32-member cabinet dominated by a mix of technocrats and conservative politicians who held sway in previous governments.
The new government faces an uphill task to revive growth in an economy that is expected to shrink by around 6% this year as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.
Jordan this month saw a near-doubling of total infections since the first cases in early March, bringing warnings of a collapse in health services if it gets out of control.
Khasawneh will oversee parliamentary elections due on Nov 10. The contest will take place under an electoral law that marginalises the main Islamist opposition and independent political parties to keep a majority of pro-government deputies.
Outgoing premier Razzaz, appointed in 2018 to calm protests over IMF austerity moves, had faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic and use of emergency laws to silence dissent.
International rights groups lambasted the authorities for arresting hundreds of teacher activists after dissolving their opposition-led elected union last July.
The detention of dissidents and activists for criticising government policies raised alarm over a tighter authoritarian grip, rights groups and independent politicians say.


Iranian Parliament calls for block on nuclear inspections

Updated 30 November 2020

Iranian Parliament calls for block on nuclear inspections

  • MPs said the “best response” to Fakhrizadeh’s assassination would be to “revive Iran’s glorious nuclear industry”
  • Tehran allowed additional inspections as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

LONDON: Iran’s Parliament has called for international inspectors to be barred from accessing the country’s nuclear facilities, in response to the killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

In a statement issued on Sunday, MPs said the “best response” to Fakhrizadeh’s assassination would be to “revive Iran’s glorious nuclear industry” by halting the voluntary implementation of protocols that allow more intrusive inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organization, told Iranian media on Saturday that the issue of inspectors’ access “must be decided on at high levels” of the country’s leadership.

The Supreme National Security Council, a body directly answerable to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran allowed additional inspections as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), widely referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, which eased crippling economic sanctions on the country in exchange for heavy restrictions on the development of its nuclear industry.

The JCPOA has faced heavy scrutiny from the Trump administration, which has taken several steps to roll back the various concessions made to Iran as part of the deal.