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Clashes mar visit by Jordan's king, witnesses say

By Taylor Luck, For CNN
King Abdullah has announced sweeping political changes that may put Jordan on the path to a constitutional monarchy.
King Abdullah has announced sweeping political changes that may put Jordan on the path to a constitutional monarchy.
  • Youths clash with security forces, witnesses say
  • King Abdullah appears in Tafileh, Jordan, to announce a development initiative
  • Government spokesman plays down incident
  • King announces major government reforms over weekend

Amman, Jordan (CNN) -- Clashes broke out between citizens and anti-riot police during a visit by King Abdullah to southern Jordan on Monday.

According to eyewitnesses, festivities welcoming the monarch in the southern city of Tafileh, 180 kilometers (111 miles) south of Amman, turned violent when pro-reform activists were denied access to a royal event to launch a development initiative.

Youths threw stones at security services who responded with force, according to eyewitnesses in the city, home to anti-government protests in recent weeks.

Taher Odwan, Jordanian minister of communications and government spokesman, downplayed the clashes, denying media reports that the king's motorcade came under attack.

"A group of citizens attempted to greet the king and started shoving security personnel who responded back. This is something you would find at any event," Odwan said.

The incident comes a day after King Abdullah's royal address to the nation announcing sweeping political reforms that political observers see as steps to place the country on the path to a constitutional monarchy.

In a speech designated to mark the anniversary of the Great Arab Revolt, the monarch announced a number of reforms, including relinquishing his power to form a government to the parliament, a greater separation of powers and further constitutional amendments.

King Abdullah's Monday visit came to announce $21.1 million worth of development projects in Tafileh, where protesters have recently called for the government's dismissal, the dissolution of parliament and greater efforts to combat corruption.

Unlike other Arab states witnessing popular uprisings, weekly demonstrations that have taken place in Jordan -- a moderate state and key U.S. ally -- have called for regime reform, not regime change.

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