Jordan revokes restrictions on public gatherings

Protest marches in Jordan will no longer need government permission, Jordan's interior minister said Tuesday, bowing to growing pressure to allow wider freedoms.

In street protests in the past five weeks, Muslim opposition groups, their leftist allies and independent rights activists demanded that the government remove restrictions on free speech and assembly.

Jordan's King Abdullah II responded by promising changes to pertinent laws, including a controversial election law which critics say allows the king's loyalists to dominate the legislature, the only elected national decision-making body.

Srour said Tuesday that protesters would still have to inform authorities of any gathering two days in advance to "ensure public safety" and that they would have to observe public order. However, he stressed that the government would no longer interfere in such matters.

Opposition leader Hamza Mansour said the change was a step in the right direction. "We're still waiting to see changes made to the election law and to have early elections held based on the new bill," added Mansour, the leader of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood, Jordan's largest opposition group, boycotted a November vote, alleging the election law was weighed against it.

Meanwhile, about 3,000 tribal leaders and key figures — including lawmakers, retired security personnel and academicians — renewed their allegiance to the king in an emotional letter, praising his reform efforts.

The letter assured Abdullah that Jordan will "survive regional turbulence, the way it did in the last 60 years," referring to the Egyptian uprising which sent shock waves across the volatile Mideast.