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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK

World: Middle East

King Abdullah: Jordan's hope

The 37-year-old king has inherited a tough legacy

By Hilary Andersson in Amman

On this historic day, all the focus is on one man - Jordan's new king Abdullah. His crowning is the first in almost 50 years.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson: "The late King Hussein died leaving a tough legacy for his son"
The image of his father King Hussein who died in February still dominates the capital, Amman. But today it is the start of a new era.

Jordan is a monarchy where the king has total power and the evening news comes complete with praise-songs for him. It is an old-fashioned system which is now headed by a young 37-year-old king.

Jordan's sorrow
In Amman's fashionable Internet cafes, the young people are excited and hope that fresh leadership will mean modernisation and change.

"With the millennium approaching I do believe that we need new leaders," said one young woman. "Perhaps they will change something."

[ image: Much-loved King Hussein died in February]
Much-loved King Hussein died in February
Another customer echoed her views.

"He mingled with people, he mingled with everybody, and just the fact that he did do that we feel like he's a lot closer to us in that aspect. We feel like he can address our issues even more," he said.

But in most of Jordan it's a different story.

A grinding economic crisis has hit hard. Farmer Abu Fera'is fears his sheep will die because of the worst water shortage in living memory. His fields are barren yet he still has to support 15 children.

[ image: This farmer has pleaded for government help]
This farmer has pleaded for government help
This year he doesn't know how he'll get by.

"I've asked the government to help," he told me. "If they don't, God help us."

The late King Hussein died leaving a tough legacy for his son, a country whose troubles run deep.

He was forgiven for much. His long battle with cancer won him the sympathy of his people. King Abdullah, though, will have to pick up the pieces.

"We cannot make promises for things in the future where we cannot know what's going to happen," said former Trade Minister Ali Abu-Raghab.

[ image: Jordanians want their king to succeed]
Jordanians want their king to succeed
"But there's a strong determination to make the standard of living better and to work on reducing unemployment and fighting poverty."

Jordanians want their king to succeed. He's still riding on his father's popularity, but today the real work starts and it could mark the end of his political honeymoon.

The late King Hussein built this nation. His son has much more to do. If Jordan is to remain the stable country that it is, King Abdullah will have to make fundamental changes and drag it into the 21st Century.

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