Breaking: Thousands of angry Jordanians call for king to go

AFP , Friday 16 Nov 2012

Jordanian protesters chant "freedom, freedom, down with Abdullah" during unprecedented calls for the King to leave power over the government's decision to raise fuel prices

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration following an announcement that Jordan would raise fuel prices, including a hike on cooking gas, in Amman November 15, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of demonstrators in Amman made unprecedented calls on Friday for Jordanian King Abdullah II to go, as police blocked them from heading to the royal palace to vent their anger over sharp hikes in fuel prices.

"The people want to reform the regime. Freedom, freedom, down with Abdullah. God is greater than injustice. Freedom is from God. Abdullah your era is gone," chanted what AFP estimated at more than 10,000 people, including Islamists, leftists and youth groups.

"The people want the fall of the regime. Abdullah, reform or leave, you have lost legitimacy," they shouted in anger as they gathered outside the Husseini Mosque in downtown Amman.

Public insults of the king or calling for his ouster are a rare occurrence because they are illegal and can result in the offender being jailed.

Demonstrators held banners reading, "playing with prices means playing with fire," "this is a real revolt against corruption" and "no reform without political and economic change. Long live the revolt of Jordanians."

Police prevented them from heading for the palace around eight kilometres (five miles) from the mosque, but no clashes were reported, an AFP reporter said.

Zaki Bani Rsheid, deputy leader of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, told AFP: "Those who are calling for fall of the regime are increasing because of wrong polices that reject people's demands."

"This cannot and should not be ignored. The regime must reform before it is too late."

The protesters said they plan to hold another demonstration at around 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) near the interior ministry on Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle.

Similar but smaller demonstrations took place in other parts of Jordan, including the southern cities of Tafileh, Karak and Maan, as wells Irbid and Jerash in the north.

Unrest erupted in Jordan on Tuesday night after announcement of a 53 percent increase in the price of household gas and a 12 percent rise in petrol.

Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur said the price increases are necessary to help reduce a projected budget deficit of 3.5 billion dinars (around $5 billion dollars/3.9 billion euros) this year.

Riots left one person dead and 71 wounded, mainly policemen, according to police, which arrested 158 people and recorded around 100 incidents of rioting, vandalism and theft across Jordan.

The Muslim Brotherhood has demanded that the king cancel the price hikes and postpone January 23 general elections, which the group said it will boycott.

Despite the unrest, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday Jordan remained an "important strategic partner."

"We support King Abdullah II's road map for reform and the aspirations of the Jordanian people to foster a more inclusive political process that will promote security, stability as well as economic development," he said.

Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to stay away from public gatherings and universities in Jordan, state news agency SPA reported.

The kingdom's embassy in Amman "warned Saudi employees and students in Jordan from going to public squares or approaching sites of gatherings and demonstrations," SPA said late on Thursday.

It warned them from going to schools "to preserve their security after earlier clashes between security forces and students at universities."

And the US embassy has warned Americans to avoid areas where demonstrations are being held, while saying it was "carefully monitoring the security situation in Amman and throughout the country."

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