JERUSALEM-A senior Jordanian official on Sunday accused the country’s former crown prince of conspiring with foreign elements in a “malicious plot” that threatened national security.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters that the plot had been foiled at the “zero hour”.

“Then it was clear they moved from design and planning into action,” he said, adding that as many as 16 people had been arrested.

Safadi spoke a day after Prince Hamzah, 41, a half brother of King Abdullah II, was placed under house arrest, in a rare public clash between top members of the long-ruling family.

The palace turmoil has laid bare a rift in Jordan, usually considered a bulwark of stability in the Middle East region.

Washington and major Gulf powers were quick to pledge their support for King Abdullah and for all steps taken to ensure stability amid reports of a foiled coup plot.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

Pro-US Gulf Arab countries, which have many Jordanians working across public sector jobs, also immediately issued statements backing the king and his government.

In a videotaped statement from house arrest, Hamzah accused the leadership of corruption and incompetence. He said he will not obey orders restricting his movement.

Safadi, who also holds the title of deputy prime minister, said intelligence agents had been observing the plotters for some time and raised their concerns with the king.

He said Hamzah was asked to “stop all these activities and movements that threaten Jordan and its stability”, but he refused.

Unidentified countries

Safadi did not identify the foreign countries allegedly involved in the plot. But he said a longtime senior official who has business ties in several Gulf Arab states, Bassem Awadallah, was involved and had been planning on leaving the country.

In his video, Hamzah said he was visited early on Saturday by the kingdom’s military chief and told he could not go out, communicate with people or meet with them. He said his phone and internet service were cut and his satellite internet, used to record the message, was being cut off as well.

He said he was told he was being punished for taking part in meetings in which the king had been criticized, though he said he was not accused of joining in the criticism.

Agencies via Xinhua