Jordan crowns its new king

THE JORDANIAN capital, Amman, came to a standstill yesterday as the country celebrated its first coronation in nearly 50 years.

The rejoicing marked the accession of King Abdullah II to the throne he inherited from his late father, King Hussein, four months ago.

Shopkeepers offered sweets and spiced coffee to passers-by in the bustling streets. "Your Majesty, your reign holds the hope for a better future," said one banner. Crowds thronged to cheer the 37-year-old king and his wife, Queen Rania, as their motorcade passed through.

Queen Rania, who was granted her title by Abdullah at the end of the 40-day mourning period for King Hussein, is a Palestinian, a factor that may help to cement the loyalty of the country's Palestinians, who make up a majority of the 4.6 million population.

The new king is seen as inexperienced. But extensive Arab and Western tours in the past few months have cemented bonds with regional leaders. Most Jordanians hailed his journey to Syria, which was seen as restoring Arab ties damaged by King Hussein's close links with Israel. Abdullah's real test, however, will be to improve the economy and counter mounting poverty and unemployment.