US urges peaceful Jordan protests, backs king's reforms
The United States Friday supported the right of peaceful protest in Jordan, but also defended King Abdullah's economic and political reform efforts, including the rise in fuel prices that sparked four days of demonstrations, DPA reported.
Friday marked an escalation in the country's 22-month-old protest movement, which calls for regime change and has expressed outrage over rising fuel prices.
Protests erupted Tuesday within an hour after Amman's decision to increase fuel prices by 33 per cent and double cooking and heating gas prices. One person was killed, 70 people injured and 200 arrested since the protests began.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged peaceful conduct of such protests.
"There is always some pain that comes with these things, but it's a necessary pain in this case," she said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Friday with Abdullah to discuss not only the internal situation inside Jordan but also the escalating violence between Gaza and Israel.
"The secretary commended the Jordanian government's efforts to address their economic challenges, and the king's commitment to reform," Nuland said.
Nuland noted that the fuel price increases were necessary to address Jordan's "fiscal challenges" and to comply with the terms of their International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement.
The demonstrations did not present the same kind of threat to Abdullah's government as the Arab Spring protests presented to the governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, Nuland said.
"In the case of Jordan, you have a government that is wrestling with reform, trying to meet obligations for reform both to their own people and to the IMF," Nuland said. "This is a government that is endeavouring to reform."
"We support King Abdullah and his government in the change that they're trying to implement inside Jordan, which they've got to do in order to modernize the state," she said.
She said similar reforms were equally painful for places like the European Union and the United States.