wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07AMMAN3215 2007-07-30 14:52:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

KING ACCEPTS RESIGNATIONS OF HEALTH AND WATER

Tags:   PGOV SENV EAID EAGR JO 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0024
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAM #3215/01 2111452
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301452Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9681
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 5313
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 3295
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0688
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 3650
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 1805
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 4551
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 0773
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L AMMAN 003215 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/RA, AND OES/PCI
STATE PASS AID
USAID FOR MILLER, DEELY, AND ANE
CAIRO FOR USAID BARTH
CAIRO FOR AGCOUNS KURZ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/29/2017
TAGS: PGOV SENV EAID EAGR JO
SUBJECT: KING ACCEPTS RESIGNATIONS OF HEALTH AND WATER
MINISTER; POSITIVE REACTION TO EXAMPLE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE

REF: AMMAN 3177

Classified By: Ambassador David Hale for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: PM Bakhit announced on July 29 the
resignations of Minister of Water and Irrigation Alem and
Health Minister Kharabsheh. The two offered their
resignations following parasitic contamination of water
supplies in northeastern Jordan that infected hundreds. New
ministers have not been named; Environment Minister Irani
will assume responsibility for the Water Ministry and
Minister of Political Development Oran will manage the Health
Ministry. Other officials in the water and health sectors
also stepped down. Local media had extensive coverage of the
announcement and while some blame the media for instigating
the furor over the outbreak, many view the resignations as
examples of GOJ accountability and good governance. Alem's
departure may be a loss to the water sector, but Environment
Minister Irani is a close ally and advocate of alternative
water management strategies. His tenure, while likely short,
may present opportunities to seriously discuss changes to
Jordan's water policy. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) During a July 29 press conference, Prime Minister
Marouf Bakhit announced the issuance of a royal decree
accepting the resignations of Minister of Water and
Irrigation Zafer Al Alem and Health Minister Saad Kharabsheh.
The PM explained the two resigned out of their "moral
responsibility" following the mid-July cryptosporidium
contamination of water tanks in Mafraq Governorate that sent
hundreds to the hospital (reftel). Several senior officials
at both ministries have also tendered their resignations,
taken early retirement, or accepted reassignments. Until new
ministers are announced, Minister of Environment Khaled Irani
will assume responsibility for the Water Ministry and Dr.
Mohammad Al Oran, Minister of Political Development, the only
physician in the current Cabinet and a vocal critic of U.S.
policies in the region, will serve as acting Minister of
Health. COMMENT: Alem and Water Authority of Jordan
Secretary General Munther Khleifat, who also resigned, were

SIPDIS
seasoned, well respected professionals with considerable
experience in the water sector. It may be difficult to
identify equally talented and experienced successors. END
COMMENT.



3. (U) The PM further announced the formation of an
official investigative body to examine the outbreak and
subsequent response, and make recommendations on safeguarding
public health. The body will be led by Minister of State for
Legal Affairs Khalid Zu'bi with participation from the
ministries of environment and justice. The PM declined to
comment on whether the GOJ would pursue legal action against
the two former ministers.



4. (U) Both English and Arabic dailies carried extensive
coverage of the resignations on both the news and editorial
pages. A Jordan Times editorial commented, "In all fairness,
while the two Cabinet ministers may have been well unaware of
the health hazards...they should be held to account for the
simple reason that it is their duty to know the smallest
detail of any situation for which they are responsible." The
column continued that the resignations should have been
offered immediately after the outbreak, but nevertheless set
an example of good governance that should be observed
throughout Jordan. Independent, pro-business Arabic daily
Al-Ghad described the resignations as "inevitable,"
explaining the actions "entrenched the concept of
responsibility and accountability."


5. (C) COMMENT: Reaction to the resignations is generally
positive, with many touting the ministers' decisions as
examples of good governance. This phenomenon, however, is
not new: in 1998, former Water and Irrigation Minister
Haddadin stepped down after contaminated water from the Zai
Treatment Plant entered the distribution system. Critics of
the July 29 resignations blame the press for exaggerating the
situation and focusing attention on the GOJ when, in their
view, the real culprits were farmers who illegally accessed
water for their livestock by shooting holes in pipes which
allowed waste to seep into the system. The current crisis

may open a new chapter in Jordan's water management policy.
There is increased attention on the faults in the water
supply network and the ineffective enforcement of existing
laws. Additionally, Acting Water Minister Irani is a
long-time friend of the Embassy and supporter of USG
activities in Jordan. He is a proponent of more efficient
water use and his tenure, while likely to be short, may
present an opportunity to emphasize much needed alternative
strategies in water management.



6. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: The King's Office Director,
Bassem Awadallah, and GOJ spokesman/cabinet member Nasser
Judeh separately told the Ambassador that PM Bakhit was
hesitant to seek these resignations, and it was only upon the
King's return from a North American trip that the King
personally forced action. The Royal Palace has mobilized GID
and other tools to blunt Islamist victories in the July 31
municipal elections, and part of the strategy was to show
Government responsiveness to socio-economic needs in such
neglected areas as Mafraq. The timing of this health crisis
was damaging, and more so was a perception of complacency and
tardiness in the ministries' initial response. It is hoped
that with this move, the GOJ will have demonstrated a
refreshing accountability and turned this setback into a
possible gain in the elections.

Visit Amman's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman/
Hale