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Jordan: Jordanians protests fuel price hikes, targeting King Abdullah

Jordan's move to raise fuel prices has sparked nationwide protests, with Jordan's King Abdullah reportedly drawing much of the anger.

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Jordanian policemen stand guard during a demonstration in Amman following an announcement that Jordan would raise fuel prices, including a 53 percent hike on cooking gas, on November 13, 2012. (KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)

Jordan's decision to raise fuel prices has sparked nationwide protests, with Jordan's King Abdullah reportedly drawing much of the anger. 

Two policemen were lightly wounded and a courthouse torched after more than 1,000 people took to the streets in the capital Amman, Reuters reported.

Small protests also erupted in several provincial towns, organized by Islamist and tribal opposition groups. 

George Washington University Professor Marc Lynch told the Washington Post that demonstrations inspired by the wave of Arab unrest had "become commonplace over the past year."

Such protests had pushed Jordanian authorities to freeze major fuel price hikes.

However, according to Agence France-Presse, the kingdom imports 95 percent of its energy needs and is struggling to find alternatives to unstable Egyptian gas supplies.

There have also been 14 attacks on the pipeline supplying gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan  since 2011. 

AFP cited State TV as reporting that Trade and Industry Minister Hatem al-Halwani raised the cost of household gas from 6.5 dinars to 10 dinars per cylinder, a 53 percent rise, effective from midnight local time.

There was also a 33 percent rise for diesel and kerosene for transport, and for heating, and a 14 percent increase on lower grade petrol, Reuters reported.

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Jordan is aiming to reduce the budget deficit — forecast to rise to $3.5 billion this year — and secure a $2 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, speaking on state television, blamed the Arab Spring protests for the country's economic woes and said that the fuel price hikes were unavoidable.

"If the move was delayed we would have faced a catastrophe and insolvency," he said, Reuters reported.

The Post added that protests were also increasingly directed at the country’s leaders.

The paper reported on protests in Jordan’s south in cities inhabited by tribal Bedouins, traditionally strong supporters of the king, where hundreds took to the streets chanting slogans criticizing the king.

It provided a translation of some of the chants:

"Oh Abdullah, Listen up, Change and Reform, its going to happen, its going to happen."
"Oh Abdullah son of Hussien, where did the people’s money go?"
"There’s those stealing millions, and the rest eating plain bread."
"If prices go up, we’ll sleep in the circle, and the country will light on fire."
"Freedom is from God, in spite of you Abdullah."

In Maan, a Muslim militant stronghold, 500 protesters clashed with riot police who returned fire with tear gas.

In Sareeh, in the north close to the Syrian border, protesters burned down a gas station

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/jordan/121113/jordan-fuel-prices-middle-east-gas-oil-king-abdallah