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Marouf Al-Bakhit, Jordan's Prime Minister, Called To Resign By Activists

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MAROUF ALBAKHIT
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AMMAN, Jordan -- Pro-reform activists took to the streets across Jordan on Friday, stepping up their calls for the prime minister to resign because they say he has failed to fight corruption.

About 3,000 people, including leftists and members of Jordan's powerful Muslim Brotherhood, protested in seven cities across Jordan. The opposition accuses Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit of taking a lenient approach toward corruption and says that he is stalling political reform.

Protesters have been demanding more openness, economic reforms and new elections for parliament.

"Al-Bakhit should resign because he failed to take serious steps toward real reform, except provide lip service to appease the public," said Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu-Bakr, one of about 400 protesters in downtown Amman. The Brotherhood's political arm – the Islamic Action Front – is Jordan's largest opposition party.

Protests in Jordan have often been smaller and more peaceful than elsewhere in the region, although there have been incidents of violent clashes. Many Jordanians say they want King Abdullah II to remain their ruler, but are urging him to give up some of his power.

Calls for reform have grown since a convicted tycoon's abrupt departure from the country, allegedly for medical treatment abroad.

The king ordered an investigation into the February disappearance of Khaled Shaheen, who was serving a three-year prison term for bribery and corruption.

Two Cabinet ministers resigned last week over Shaheen's disappearance.

"If al-Bakhit is serious about reform, how come Shaheen was smuggled out of the country?" asked Maan Sabri, one of about 300 protesters in another Amman district – the low-income Hay Tafayleh.

Elsewhere in Amman, a smaller crowd of about 150 protesters gathered at a mosque near the Israeli Embassy and vented anger at Israel, two days before Sunday's anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

A larger anti-Israel rally is planned for Sunday in the Jordan Valley, near the western border with Israel.

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