Jordan protesters take to streets over fuel price rises

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Jordanian policemen stand guard during a demonstration in Amman following an announcement that Jordan would raise fuel pricesImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Jordanian authorities have increased security measures across the country

Protests have been held in several Jordanian cities against increases in fuel price, following the lifting of government subsidies.

About 2,000 demonstrators gathered in the centre of the capital Amman, with many chanting anti-government slogans.

Ministers say the decision was necessary to tackle a budget deficit of 3.5bn dinars ($5bn; £3.1bn).

Last month Jordan saw its biggest opposition protest for several years calling for electoral reform.

Household cooking gas will go up by just over 50%, diesel and kerosene by 33% and lower-grade gasoline by 15%.

Queues at petrol stations were reported in Amman as people tried to stock up on petrol before the price rises took effect at midnight on Tuesday.

Protesters condemned the decision, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, and with some openly criticising King Abdullah, a taboo punishable by prison.

"Freedom is from God, in spite of you, Abdullah," was one chant heard in Amman, according to the Associated Press.

Other cities where protests were reported included Salt, Irbid and Maan.

'Precarious situation'

Mr Ensour told state TV that the price rises would be offset by government payments to low-income families.

"The financial situation in the country has been greatly affected by the Arab Spring. The economic situation is very precarious," Mr Ensour said.

Jordan is normally a heavy importer of Egyptian natural gas, but over the past year the pipeline which supplies gas to both Israel and Jordan has been attacked several times, forcing the country to use more expensive supplies.

Last month about 10,000 people took part in a protest in Amman called by the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Islamic Action Front, demanding broader political representation and a more democratic parliament.

King Abdullah has called early elections on 23 January. The opposition has threatened to boycott the poll.

Jordan has so far avoided the unrest and political upheaval that rocked much of the Arab world last year and led to changes of leadership in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia.