JORDAN: Thousands of demonstrators protest food prices, denounce government
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In an unprecedented development in Jordan, protests similar to those that have rocked Tunisia and Algeria in recent weeks erupted in the Arab kingdom Friday.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Amman, and several other cities to protest rising food prices and unemployment, media reports say.
Aside from complaints, they also pointed rare and stinging criticism toward the Jordanian government, headed by Prime Minister Samir Rifai.
‘Down with Rifai’s government,’ protestors chanted as they marched through Amman’s city center, according to Agence France-Presse. ‘Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh. Raise fuel prices to fill their pockets with millions.’
Similar protest marches were held in the cities of Maan, Karak, Slat and Irbid, where demonstrators shouted that Jordan was ‘too big’ for Rifai, the report added. All in all, around 8,000 people turned out for the marches -- despite previous measures by the Jordanian government to create more jobs and control rising commodity prices.
According to a report by Egypt’s state-run Al Ahram news agency, tanks surrounded the Arab kingdom’s major cities and checkpoints and barriers had been set up.
The report, headlined ‘Jordan fears another Tunisia’, claimed that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had set up a special task force in his palace that included military and intelligence officials to try to prevent the unrest from escalating further.
It said the country’s main opposition group -- the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood -- had not participated in Friday’s demonstrations, but the group will reportedly join a sit-in outside parliament Sunday, along with the the country’s 14 trade unions, a move that would probably increase the pressure on the Jordanian authorities.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut