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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 19:38 GMT
Jordan edging towards democracy
President Bush meets with the King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House on 6 December 2004.
Jordan's King Abdullah is considered by Washington as an ally
Jordan's King Abdullah has announced plans to widen the public's role in decision-making by setting up elected councils to oversee development.

The move came as the king unveiled a vision for political, economic and social change.

Hours earlier, US President George W Bush had urged the king to "ensure democracy continues to advance in Jordan", but officials denied any link.

Analysts suggest reform in Jordan, an absolute monarchy, has stalled.

Since ascending to the throne five years ago, King Abdullah has sought to press ahead with reforms introduced by his late father, King Hussein, who died in 1999.

In a speech on Wednesday, the king said "political development should start at the grassroots" but did not set out exactly how the elected local councils would work.

Mr Bush urged King Abdullah, a US ally, to take steps towards democracy after being questioned about alleged human rights abuse in Jordan at a Washington news conference.

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