Jordanian police move to separate rival protests

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 10:57 AM
Jordanian police move to separate rival protests

Jordanian police on Friday separated hundreds of government supporters and pro-reform activists holding rival rallies outside the municipal offices in the capital of Amman.

No one was hurt, in contrast to clashes a week earlier between the two sides, when riot police intervened. One man died and about 120 others were hurt. It was the first significant violence in three months of weekly protests.

A peaceful group of students, Facebook activists, and Islamists chanted: "Reform now. We want to elect the prime minister," and held a huge Jordanian flag.

The protesters have been gathering in the center of Amman on Fridays, demanding political reforms. They want King Abdullah II to relinquish some of his absolute powers and demand that the parliament be dissolved and new elections held. They say the current legislature is skewed by an election law the drew boundaries guaranteeing that the king's supporters would control the house.

In the background are severe economic problems, including high unemployment and rising prices for staple products, the result of higher energy costs.

The protests have not directly targeted the king, who has pledged to push for reforms and has chastised his prime minister for not moving fast enough, while convening a wide-ranging dialogue committee.

On Friday, about 400 protesters faced off against about the same number of pro-government demonstrators nearby. Police kept the two sides apart.

The violence a week earlier was on the minds of some of the protesters.

Medical student Ayoub Manour,19, said he and other youth activists were concerned about their safety, but he said this has only spurred them to continue until their demands are met.

"Whoever thought this violence would stop us from coming out and asking for reforms is ignorant," he said.

Zaki Bani Ersheid, political chief of Jordan's largest opposition movement, the Islamic Action Front, said his group is not frightened.

"The legitimate rights of Jordan's youth must be upheld," he said. "We will continue to press for our demands for reform through street protests."

Bani Ersheid's group has rejected participation in a national dialogue process discussing reform and has demanded formation of a new government.

"Once the government starts to implement reforms, all these popular movements will end. But the ball is in the government's court," he said.

Elsewhere, in the southern Islamist stronghold of Maan, about 500 people demonstrated, demanding speedier political reforms.

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Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby contributed to this report.