updated 12/14/2005 4:08:36 PM ET 2005-12-14T21:08:36

Jordan’s new prime minister vowed Wednesday to wage a “pre-emptive” war against Islamic extremists, saying his government planned to fight terrorism by reforming religious teaching and granting greater freedom.

Speaking to parliament, Marouf al-Bakhit said the suicide bombers who killed 60 people in three hotels on Nov. 9 “only made us more determined to move forward in our pre-emptive war against terrorism and the ‘takfiri’ culture.”

‘Takfiri’ is the ideology of militants who regard their Muslim opponents as infidels.

Last month’s coordinated, triple suicide bombing was the deadliest terror attack in Jordan’s history. Jordanians, who pride themselves on living in a quiet corner of a violent region, took to the streets in mass protests against al-Qaida in Iraq, which claimed responsibility, and its Jordanian-born leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The 110-member parliament will meet Sunday to debate a vote of confidence in al-Bakhit’s 24-member Cabinet, which King Abdullah II swore in Nov. 27.

The prime minister said his government had a “national and comprehensive strategy” to fight terrorism. That included revising the anti-terrorism law to make it more specific, setting up a crisis management center and providing border posts with more staff and modern equipment to detect smugglers and terrorists.

Clerics to be ‘retrained and rehabilitated’
The government also would devise a strategy for religious teaching to stress “moderation and tolerance,” he said, adding that Muslim clerics would be “retrained and rehabilitated.”

When Abdullah chose al-Bakhit to be prime minister last month, he instructed him to launch an all-out war against Islamic militancy while vigorously pursuing political and economic reforms.

Al-Bakhit pledged Wednesday to maintain a delicate balance between wider public freedom and security, saying “democracy without security would be chaotic and security without democracy would be oppressive and restrictive of freedoms.”

Al-Bakhit also said Jordan would have closer ties with Arab countries and would continue to support Middle East peacemaking and a state for the Palestinians.

He voiced Jordan’s unequivocal support for Iraq until “political reconciliation is achieved, a step that will allow for the withdrawal of foreign troops from its territory and the start of a new era of reconstruction and development.”

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