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Middle East
Rallies for reform held in Jordan
Hundreds of protesters demand reform in Amman while a "day of rage" planned for Damascus fails to get underway.
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2011 18:26 GMT
Protesters in Jordan are calling for political reform and the end to the Mubarak government in Egypt [Reuters]

Hundreds of Jordanians have marched in Amman, the capital, demanding economic and political reforms, while also supporting the revolution unfolding in Egypt.

Protesters from leftist groups and the Muslim Brotherhood marched from the prime minister's office to the Egyptian embassy on Friday, calling for change in their country.

"We want seriousness on the ground. We want a genuine reform. We want initiatives and now so that people feel they are partners in decision making," Hamzeh Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, said.

The action comes a day after King Abdullah of Jordan met with Muslim Brotherhood leaders at the royal palace, in an attempt to defuse tensions in the country.

New prime minister

Earlier this week, the king replaced his prime minister with Maruf Bakhit and asked him to form a new government after weeks of protests by opposition groups.

He instructed the premier to "take practical, quick and trangible steps to launch true political reforms," but Islamist groups have accused Bakhit of not being a reformist.

Opposition leaderships have been unhappy with the new appointment as Bakhit's last government, which oversaw local and parliamentary elections in 2007, was accused of being marred by vote-rigging.

Activists on Friday chanted "Down with the government" as they rallied outside the prime minister's office.

Protesters also expressed their support for Egyptians, calling on Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, to step down and accused him of being a CIA agent.

"No to Arab regimes that have ties to the US and the West," they chanted outside the embassy in Cairo, and "no to Arab regimes that serve Israel's interests".

Activists also called prayed for all the Egyptians who had lost their lives during the protests against Mubarak.

In Tunisia, at least 100 people protested outside the Egyptian embassy in the capital, chanting anti-Mubarak slogans.

Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of pro-democracy party al-Nahda, made a brief appearance to show his solidarity with the protesters, waving an Egyptian flag.

Quiet in Syria

Meanwhile a similar protest planned for Damascus, the Syrian capital, failed to get underway on Friday despite heavy promotion on social networking sites.

Campaigns on Facebook and Twitter had called for a "day of rage" on Friday and Saturday, following similar actions in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia.

But despite 12,000 "likes" on its campaign site, the streets remained quiet on Friday.

The city did see a higher number of security agents but it was not clear whether protesters had been put off by authorities.

"Syrian dissidents, including Kurds, did not respond to this call because they are convinced protests would be inefficient under the current conditions," Abdel Karim Rihawi, president of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch called on the country's authorities to "respect" the right of its people to protest, following reports that protest organisers had been intimidated by security forces.

"Syria's government should immediately cease its intimidation and harassment of demonstrators expressing solidarity with pro-democracy campaigners in Egypt," the human rights group said in a statement.

Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, has resisted calls for political freedoms and jailed many critics of his regime.

On Wednesday, a group of 20 people in civilian clothing beat and dispersed 15 demonstrators who had gathered in old Damascus to hold a candlelight vigil for Egyptian demonstrators.

"Security services also detained two young male demonstrators for a few hours ... and have exerted pressure on organisers to cease any public gatherings," Human Rights Watch said.

Source:
Agencies
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