Jordan's Abdullah: Iraq election sets 'good tone'
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi elections helped send a signal to the entire Arab world that democratic reforms are necessary, Jordan's King Abdullah II said Monday.
"Obviously, a successful Palestinian election and what seems to be a successful Iraqi election can only assure people that this is a process that the Middle East needs, and one that needs to be taken seriously," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
He offered congratulations "to all Iraqis," and said they proved they are "stronger than the extremist groups trying to destabilize Iraq." (Full story)
The Iraqi elections and the Palestinian elections earlier this month serve as "good examples of the democratic process" that "help countries such as Jordan to be able to push the envelope," he said.
"So I think what we saw yesterday in Iraq is a positive thing. I think it is a thing that will set a good tone for the Middle East and I'm very optimistic."
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. It is considered one of the most progressive governments in the Arab world.
President Bush has described a broad vision of helping democracy spread through the Middle East, and depicted the U.S.-led war in Iraq as a critical part of that effort.
Abdullah said that when Bush pushed his initiative last year, "it had a negative impact because people felt that this was something from the outside that was being forced on them. But since then there's been a lot of maturing in the Middle East and in the Arab world. And I think that reform, political reform, has now become an open subject in societies throughout the Middle East."
He added, "Once you open the door of reform and it's allowed to be discussed in societies, as it is throughout the Middle East, it's very difficult to close again. So I think that people are waking up, leaders are understanding that they have to push reform forward. And don't think there's any looking back."
One year ago, the subject "was taboo," he said. "It's now being talked about in all circles of life throughout the Arab world."
Abdullah also told CNN he has hope that Iraq's new government will be truly representative of its diverse population.
He added that in Israel and the Palestinian territories, conditions are "conducive" to getting peace talks back on track.