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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK


Jordan crowns new King

Preparations for Abdullah's coronation in Jordan's capital

The Jordanian capital, Amman, will come to a standstill on Wednesday, as its people celebrate a public holiday and witness the country's first coronation in nearly 50 years.

Hilary Andersson in Amman reports on the start of a new era
King Abdullah II, who officially inherited the kingdom hours after the death of his father, Hussein, in February, will formally accede to the Hashemite throne during a largely symbolic reception at the royal palace.

The 37-year-old king, together with his wife Queen Rania, is expected to travel by motorcade through the streets of Amman to greet, and be saluted by, his people.

Jordan's sorrow
More than 800 dignitaries are expected to attend the reception, the first at the Raghadan Palace since the three-month period of mourning for the late King Hussein came to an end.

King Hussein died on 7 February, after a prolonged struggle with cancer.

Jordan's Information Minister, Nasser Lawzi, said the enthronement was a "symbolic event" arranged so that future anniversaries of King Abdullah's accession would not clash with events marking the death of his father.

'Bleak economic outlook'

King Abdullah faces many challenges, both political and economic.

[ image: Abdullah: A soldier-king like his father]
Abdullah: A soldier-king like his father
Jordan is suffering a prolonged recession.

"The operating environment in Jordan is stagnant in terms of economic growth," concluded one influential US ratings agency on Tuesday.

Moody's Investor Service said the shrinking and "structurally weak" national economy, when contrasted with the country's population growth, presented "a bleak outlook".

Unemployment is high, standing at over 25%; Jordan's foreign debt is running at $7bn.

Political honeymoon

On the political stage, King Abdullah has a hard act to follow.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson says he is still enjoying a political honeymoon, riding on his late father's popularity.

But she quotes Jordanian analysts as saying that the new monarch needs to address the nation's difficulties if he is to earn popular respect and keep Jordan stable.

King Abdullah has already met many of the Middle East's leading political figures. Most recently, he hosted talks with Sultan Qaboos of Oman, at Jordan's Red Sea resort town of Aqaba.

Last week, he welcomed the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, in Amman.

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