Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country's long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US USSR and UK) various Arab states Israel and a large internal Palestinian population. Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 war and barely managed to defeat Palestinian rebels who threatened to overthrow the monarchy in 1970. King HUSSEIN in 1988 permanently relinquished Jordanian claims to the West Bank. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and initiated a gradual political liberalization; political parties were legalized in 1992. In 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II the son of King HUSSEIN assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. Since then he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000 and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. In 2003 Jordan staunchly supported the Coalition ouster of Saddam in Iraq and following the outbreak of insurgent violence in Iraq absorbed thousands of displaced Iraqis. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2007 King ABDALLAH instructed his new prime minister to focus on socioeconomic reform developing a healthcare and housing network for civilians and military personnel and improving the educational system.
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