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King hails political reform package

Jordan's King Abdullah II has welcomed proposed constitutional amendments, but critics rebuked the changes as insufficient.

The 42 proposed changes to the nearly 60-year-old constitution would still allow King Abdullah to retain most of his absolute powers, according to a 15-page document distributed by the royal palace.

Protesters have been taking to the streets in Jordan for seven months to press the government to expand parliament's powers.

Jordanians are also demanding lower food prices, a greater say in politics, an end to government corruption and the election of a prime minister.

The recommended changes do not address protesters' demands to elect a prime minister, instead keeping the appointment of the post solely with the king. But a senior government official said a separate document addressing the prime minister's appointment would be up for discussion at a later unspecified date.

Jordan's king hailed the proposed changes as a pillar for the country's reforms.

He was given the proposed changes in a black leather folder after a king-appointed committee oversaw the amendments.

After receiving the folder, King Abdullah said the basis of Jordanian reform "is wider public participation" and "the separation between the branches of government".

He delivered his remarks at a palace dinner with senior government officials, politicians and civil society representatives. Outside the palace, about 200 pro-reform activists protested against the proposed changes, saying they failed to deliver on key demands.

"This is part of the government's gimmicks to block real reforms," said 28-year-old electrician Wael Atout. "The changes are insufficient; we said we want to be able to elect our prime ministers."

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