Jordan Islamists vow more nationwide protests

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 26 2011 09:09 PM | Updated as of Jan 27 2011 05:09 AM

AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan's Islamist opposition on Wednesday called fresh protests for later in the week and warned it would press on with its campaign to force political and economic reform in the kingdom.

"We will hold rallies across Jordan after Friday prayers to demand improved living conditions as well as political and economic reforms," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu Baker told AFP.

"Such activities will continue until our demands are met."

Tunisia's popular revolt, which has ousted the country's strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has inspired dissidents across the Arab world and sparked protests in countries including Algeria, Egypt and Jordan.

Last Friday, about 5,000 Jordanians, according to police estimates, staged a peaceful protest in the capital Amman, while other demonstrations were held in the cities of Zarqa and Irbid.

Similar protests, also attracting thousands, were also staged the previous week.

The government has announced it is pumping $452 million into the economy in a bid to control soaring prices and raise salaries of government staff as well as pensions of retired government employees and servicemen.

But the Islamists and others insist the new measures are not enough as poverty levels are running at 25 percent in the desert kingdom.

The cost of living in Amman is the highest in the Arab world, according to several independent studies.

Official unemployment is about 14 percent in the country of six million people, 70 percent of them under the age of 30. But other estimates put the jobless figure at 30 percent.

A $1.5 billion deficit, equivalent to five percent of gross domestic product, is expected in this year's $8.8 billion budget.