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Police fire tear gas as Jordan protests continue

Police fired tear gas and water cannons yesterday on a third day of demonstrations in Jordan by Islamists and youth groups.

AMMAN // Police fired tear gas and water cannons yesterday on a third day of demonstrations in Jordan by Islamists and youth groups.

Protesters congregated at the interior ministry square in Amman to vent their anger at massive increases in the price of petrol, cooking gas and heating fuel.

Jordanian police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse angry demonstrators who had congregated at the interior ministry square in Amman.

Ahmad Akayleh, 23, of the Islamic Action Front's youth wing, said protests would continue as long as police blocked Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle, scene of unrest on Wednesday. "The regime has not learnt the lessons from Tahrir Square," he said.

Mr Akayleh said the government was using thugs to attack protesters.

"Our demonstrations are peaceful, but when security prevents us from getting to the interior ministry square, it only strengthens our resolve to protest. But why do they beat protesters badly and use tear gas?"

The Islamic Action front, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, along with independents, nationalists and other protest movements, plan a large demonstration after today's noon prayers.

Jordan has long considered itself immune from the Arab Spring, but resentment has been simmering in the past two years, despite reforms introduced last year by King Abdullah that critics say were cosmetic.

One protester was killed and at least 16 people were injured in protests late on Wednesday.

Qais Omari died during an attack on a police station in the country's second-largest city of Irbid. His father said he "was not carrying a weapon and did not attack police".

His family have called for an independent investigation.

Police chief Hussein Majali said yesterday the government would use an "iron fist" to keep protesters in check.

"The police will continue to deal with the peaceful protests in the same manner it did in the past 22 months," he said.

Authorities arrested 158 people in connection with the unrest. Some were later released and others are being questioned.

In Sakeb, a town near Jerash in the north, angry demonstrators chanted for "freedom" and warned that Jordanians will "rebel against injustice" in a protest held after noon prayers at Abu Baker Al Sideeq Mosque.

In Jordan's northern valley, hundreds took to the streets, according to Khaberni, a Jordanian news website.

About 200 Islamist demonstrators clashed on Wednesday with police, hurling stones at them after the protesters were prevented from holding a sit-in near Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle.

They set tyres and rubbish containers on fire and tried to block the main road between there and nearby Firas Circle in Jabal Hussein.

The unrest began on Tuesday night after the price increases under which the cost of household gas will rise 53 per cent and petrol by around 12 per cent. Minutes after state television announced the increases, several thousand Jordanians poured into the streets across the country, pelting police with stones, torching government offices and private cars and chanting slogans against the king.

Abdullah Nsur, the prime minister, has said the rises were required to reduce a government deficit of 3.5 billion dinars (Dh18.2bn) this year.

As "compensation," the government has said it will pay 420 dinars a year to families who earn less than 10,000 dinars a year.

"I like the king, but so what?" said Daoud Shorfat, 29, a civil servant, one of about 300 protesters in central Amman on Wednesday who police dispersed with tear gas and water cannon.

"He can't feel our pain. He is watching the government raising the prices, while the people are barely able to feed their hungry children."

In an attempt to placate resentment, Awad Khleifat, the deputy prime minister, met leaders of the Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front.

He urged the Islamists to stand by their country, the Petra news agency reported.

* Reporting by Suha Philip Ma'ayeh in Amman, Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and Reuters