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Jordan's king dumps prime minister, Cabinet

JERUSALEM — Yet another government fell Tuesday to the rumblings of revolution that are sweeping the Middle East, as Jordan's King Abdullah II dismissed the country's prime minister and Cabinet after weeks of protests.

The surprise move appeared aimed at pre-empting the types of massive protests that are under way in Egypt and Tunisia and are being planned in other Arab countries, including Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Algeria.

However, King Abdullah's choice of Marouf al-Bakhit, 64, a former army general and former prime minister, to replace Samir Rifai, a wealthy businessman and former court adviser, failed to impress a coalition of political forces behind nationwide protests that have been running weekly since the end of last year.

Demonstrators have called for the protests to continue until the new government takes office and institutes concrete changes.

Like other protests that have spread across Arab nations recently, the demonstrations in Jordan have focused on a better quality of life for average citizens. Protest organizers say the main issues are poverty, price increases and endemic corruption. Demonstrators from the Islamist movements also have called for constitutional amendments to curb the king's power to name heads of government.

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia — where government authorities first ignored protests and then reacted harshly — Jordan attempted to placate the protesters by distributing water and candy at demonstrations and announcing a wage increase for civil servants and military personnel.

"The move by the king was clearly part of what is going on across the Middle East. This is not a liberal reform kind of area. Reform usually takes years to achieve, and here we are seeing it spread like wildfire," said professor Assaf David, an expert on Jordanian affairs at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Nowhere have the unfolding events across the Middle East been more closely watched than by the Israeli government.

Israel's neighbor to the south, Egypt, saw a huge protest Tuesday that demanded the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In the north, Lebanon soon will see a new government sworn in under the Hezbollah-backed Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Syria will see its first round of protests Saturday as opposition movements called for massive protests against the rule of President Bashar Assad.

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