BEIRUT

Middle East

Jordanians protest fuel price hikes, demand reforms

Jordanian protesters from opposition parties wave the national flag during a demonstration against the government's decision to lift fuel subsidies in the capital Amman, on November 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI

AMMAN: Hundreds of Jordanians protested on Friday against rising fuel prices and called for political and economic reform, an AFP photographer said.

Around 300 people, including Islamists and leftists, demonstrated in front the Grand Mosque in the centre of Amman, chanting slogans that included calls for the government to step down.

"This government has to go," and "those who want to raise (fuel) prices want to see the country burn," they shouted.

The protest ended peacefully in the presence of security forces and around 100 government supporters.

In Zarqa, east of Amman, around 200 people protested in a demonstration organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, and protesters also gathered in Maan and other towns in the south of the country, according to security officials.

A government announcement last week that fuel prices were set to rise, including household gas by up to 53 percent, sparked a series of protests, some calling for King Abdullah II to step down.

Calling for the king's overthrow is punishable by imprisonment, so the slogans were a major departure for a kingdom previously spared protests on the scale of other countries swept up in the Arab Spring.

Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur defended the price hike, saying the decision was "unavoidable" given the country's $5-billion (3.9-billion-euro) budget deficit, and that the measures would save $42 million by year end.

Initial protests against the announcement descended into violence, with one person killed and 71 injured, police said.

Jordan relies on imports for 95 percent of its energy needs and has been struggling to find affordable alternatives to Egyptian gas supplies, which have been repeatedly hit by sabotage.

Oil-rich Gulf monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council were mulling ways to help Jordan shore up its fuel supplies, the United Arab Emirates said on Monday.

 

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