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Jordanians protest cost of living

AMMAN — Thousands of protesters chanted the Arab Spring slogan “the people want the downfall of the regime” in Jordan’s capital today, as demonstrations against rising prices gather force in a country so far spared the brunt of Middle East unrest.

The mainly urban Muslim Brotherhood joined hitherto largely rural protests that have erupted in the last few days, raising the spectre of lasting instability in the kingdom, a staunch US ally with the longest border with Israel.

Today’s demonstration near the main Husseini Mosque in downtown Amman was peaceful, with unarmed police separating the demonstrators denouncing King Abdullah from a smaller crowd chanting in support of the monarch.

“Go down Abdullah, go down,” the main crowd of about 4,000 protesters chanted as police, some in riot gear, largely stayed away from the crowd.

Protests have turned violent in impoverished towns across the kingdom since Wednesday when the government imposed a hike in the price of fuel. Unemployed youths and demonstrators have attacked police stations, closed roads with burnt cars and torched government buildings.

One protester was killed yesterday as a crowed tried to storm a police station in the northern city of Irbid. The provinces appeared to be quieter today.

The Brotherhood’s decision to back demonstration adds the voice of the country’s best-organised opposition movement to the protests, although top Brotherhood figures did not appear in person.

“King Abdullah should take note of the situation by going back on the decision to raise prices. The Jordanian people are unable to shoulder more burdens,” Brotherhood leader Sheikh Hamam Said said in a statement ahead of the protests.

Instability in Jordan would come at a dangerous time for the region, when Syria’s war risks leaping borders and Israel is bombing Islamist-run Gaza. (Reuters)

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