* Emboldened Muslim Brotherhood urges monarch to cancel
* Demonstrators in capital oppose king
* Provinces quieter after days of unrest
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Nov 16 Thousands of protesters chanted
the Arab Spring slogan "the people want the downfall of the
regime" in Jordan's capital on Friday, as demonstrations against
rising prices gather force in a country so far spared the brunt
of Middle East unrest.
The mainly urban Muslim Brotherhood joined hitherto largely
rural protests that have erupted in the last few days, raising
the spectre of lasting instability in the kingdom, a staunch
U.S. ally with the longest border with Israel.
Friday's demonstration near the main Husseini Mosque in
downtown Amman was peaceful, with unarmed police separating the
demonstrators denouncing King Abdullah from a smaller crowd
chanting in support of the monarch.
"Go down Abdullah, go down," the main crowd of about 4,000
protesters chanted as police, some in riot gear, largely stayed
away from crowd.
Protests have turned violent in impoverished towns across
the kingdom since Wednesday when the government imposed a hike
in the price of fuel. Unemployed youths and demonstrators have
attacked police stations, closed roads with burnt cars and
torched government buildings.
One protester was killed on Thursday as a crowed tried to
storm a police station in the northern city of Irbid. The
provinces appeared to be quieter on Friday.
The Brotherhood's decision to back Friday's demonstration
adds the voice of the country's best-organised opposition
movement to the protests, although top Brotherhood figures did
not appear in person.
"King Abdullah should take note of the situation by going
back on the decision to raise prices. The Jordanian people are
unable to shoulder more burdens," Brotherhood leader Sheikh
Hamam Said said in a statement ahead of the protests.
Instability in Jordan would come at a dangerous time for the
region, when Syria's war risks leaping borders and Israel is
bombing Islamist-run Gaza.
OPPOSITION SEEKS REFORM
The slogan "the people want the downfall of the regime" has
emerged as the main chant of Arab Spring demonstrations that
toppled autocrats from Tunisia to Yemen, in many cases bringing
to power elected Islamists allied to the Brotherhood.
In Jordan, an opposition of liberals and Islamists has
generally sought reforms, rather than the overthrow of the
50-year-old king, in power since 1999.
A friend of the West, the monarch is seen by many Jordanians
as a bulwark of stability, balancing the interests of tribes
native to the east of the Jordan river with the increasingly
assertive majority of Jordanians of Palestinian origin.
Abdullah accepted constitutional changes in August that
devolved some of his powers to parliament and paved the way for
a prime minister emerging from a parliamentary majority rather
than one handpicked by him.
However, urban politicians say he has been too slow to adopt
reforms, constrained by a tribal power base which sees change as
a threat to political and economic benefits such as state jobs.
The Brotherhood is planning to boycott a parliamentary
election set for January, arguing that rules were designed to
safeguard tribal power by giving too many seats to rural areas.
Like many Arab states, Jordan has used government subsidies
to appease the masses with cheap food and fuel, only to court
unrest when the cash runs out.
Lifting the subsidies "deprives Jordanians of the minimum
requirements of a decent living," Said said. "The King should
speed reforms that restore power to the people to allow it put
the corrupt on trial and restore embezzled money to the people."