Jordanian police separate rival rallies

Hundreds of police deployed to avert a repeat of last week's clashes between protesters and government supporters.

    Jordanian police separated hundreds of government supporters and pro-reform activists [AFP]

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

    No one was hurt in Friday's protests, in contrast to clashes a week ago between the two sides when riot police intervened.

    "Down with oppression. The people want regime and constitutional reforms, and trials for the corrupt. We want national unity," the demonstrators chanted.

    Government supporters gathered in an area close to the protests, holding large pictures of King Abdullah II and expressing their "loyalty and allegiance" to the monarch as well as their "commitment to the kingdom".

    Nearly 400 policemen were deployed, while Jordan's National Centre for Human Rights sent representatives as observers.

    The protesters have been gathering in the centre 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.

    'Not frightened'

    Medical student Ayoub Manour, 19, said he and other youth activists were concerned about their safety, but he said this had 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 was 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.

    They say the current legislature is skewed by an election law the drew boundaries guaranteeing that the king's supporters would control the house.

    Last Friday, a 55-year-old protester died and 160 people were injured when police broke up a pro-reform protest camp following a stoning attack by loyalists on young demonstrators near the interior ministry.

    Following the violence, the government decided to ban its supporters from demonstrating in the capital, while the opposition was allowed to demonstrate in specially designated areas in Amman.

    The king has condemned the violence and vowed to fight attempts to "sabotage" the country's reform drive.

    The government-appointed committee for national dialogue suspended its work after 15 of its members quit over the clashes, although 12 of them retracted their resignations following a meeting with the king.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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