Jordan's king swears in new reformist government

AMMAN (AFP) - King Abdullah II on Saturday swore in a trim cabinet line-up of 19 members led by reformist Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur who merged several portfolios to cut spending, the new information minister said.

The new government, the smallest in Jordan in more than four decades, comprises 13 newcomers including a woman, with the key interior ministry changing hands while veteran diplomat Nasser Judeh staying at the helm of the foreign ministry.

Earlier this month, the king reappointed Mr Nsur as premier following unprecedented consultations between the royal palace and the 150-member parliament, tasking him to form his second government since October.

In the new cabinet, police chief Hussein Majali, who enjoys a good reputation for not using excessive force against pro-reform protesters, was given the ministry of the interior and municipal affairs.

Mr Judeh retains his post for the sixth time in a row in new line-up, one of the smallest cabinets in years to emerge in Jordan where the previous cabinet had two more ministers than the current one and the one before that was 30-strong.

"The goal of forming such a trim cabinet is to cut government spending," said Dr Mohammad Momani, a university professor who was handed the information ministry as well as the ministries of political development and parliamentary affairs.

"This government has the smallest ministerial team since 1967," Dr Momani, who was formally adviser to the prime minister, told AFP after the swearing-in ceremony.

Mr Nsur tendered the resignation of his 21-member government in January following parliamentary elections which were boycotted by Islamists, the main opposition force. The polls were won by people close to the regime, businessmen and tribal leaders.

Newcomers include a woman, Ms Reem Abu Hassan, a lawyer who was the secretary general of the National Council for Family Affairs, and now heads the social development ministry.

Also new to the government is Carnegie Endowment for International Peace economist Ibrahim Saif, a specialist of the economies of the Middle East, who was given the ministries of planning, tourism and antiquities.

Mr Nsur, 73, an outspoken MP and senator who held several key government portfolios in the 1980s and 1990s, is a vocal supporter of sweeping reforms and anti-corruption measures.

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