Islamists, state open dialogue in Jordan

Jordan's powerful Islamists said on Monday they have started a dialogue with the state, saying that unlike the situation in Egypt, the opposition in the kingdom does not seek regime change.

"A group of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) met on Sunday with Prime Minister Samir Rifai and gave him our demands in writing," Zaki Bani Rsheid, member of the IAF's executive council, told AFP.

"These demands include the resignation of the government, the amendment of electoral law and the formation of a national salvation government headed by an elected prime minister."

IAF secretary general Hamzeh Mansur said the meeting was "the beginning of a dialogue" with the government.

"King Abdullah II has got and grasped the people's message. We now hope he will act quickly," he said.

An official said the 49-year-old monarch, who succeeded his late father king Hussein in February 1999, "will soon receive an IAF delegation to hear their grievances."

Mansur said: "There is no comparison between Egypt and Jordan. The people there demand a regime change, but here we ask for political reforms and an elected government," he added.

The opposition Muslim Brotherhood has called for constitutional amendments to curb the king's power in naming government heads, arguing that the premiership should go to the leader of the majority in parliament.

The constitution, adopted in 1952, gives the king the exclusive prerogative to appoint and dismiss prime ministers.

"We recognise and acknowledge the legitimacy of the Hashemites," Mansur said, referring to the Jordanian royal family.

Bani Rsheid agreed: "Today everybody agrees that they do not want regime change. They want reforms. But our demands today might change tomorrow if the authorities do not act quickly."

Demonstrations have been held in Jordan after weekly Friday prayers for the past three weeks to demand political and economic reforms.

Protesters have taken to the streets in Cairo and other Egyptian cities since Tuesday, calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years in power.

The protests in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, were inspired by the uprising that ousted Tunisia's longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14.

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