* Say authorities must scrap price rises
* Most anger focused on prime minister, not king
* Protesters say ruling elite must deal with graft
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Nov 30 Jordan's Islamist opposition urged
King Abdallah to form a government of national salvation on
Friday to calm street protests sparked by steep increases in
The call came as several thousand Islamists and members of
leftist parties rallied in the capital Amman to keep up pressure
on a government they blame for worsening the plight of the poor.
The price hikes include a 54 percent increase in the cost of
gas cylinders used for cooking and heating. Much of the unrest
since mid-November has hit impoverished towns across the country
of 7 million.
The protesters called for the removal of Prime Minister
Abdullah Ensour and urged citizens to rise up against the price
rises, which the government says are necessary to bring
stretched state finances under control.
Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest
political party, say the authorities should form a more
credible, broad-based government to restore stability.
"Wisdom is needed by the authorities to defuse the crisis
the country is facing and to respond to people's demands to
abolish price increases and form a government of national
salvation," said Sheikh Hamza Mansour, head of the Islamic
Action Front, the political arm of the Brotherhood.
He warned: "Unless the state backs down, the nation is open
to all possibilities."
Opposition politicians blamed Jordan's financial problems on
the ruling elite's failure to punish corruption among top
"The Jordanians are thirsty for reforms," Ahmad Obeidat, a
former prime minister and spy chief, told the crowds in Amman.
Jordan has witnessed several bouts of civil unrest in poorer
provincial regions in recent decades, usually caused by rising
prices of essential goods.
The latest protests have galvanised more of the population -
the Brotherhood is a mainly urban movement - but not yet
acquired the kind of critical mass that led to the toppling of
leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya last year.
PRIME MINISTER UNDER PRESSURE
Ensour's government faces a weak economy and a steep drop in
foreign aid that leave it with less money to distribute among
the population in the form of jobs and subsidies.
Much of the unrest has been in tribal areas that form the
backbone of support for the monarchy and rely heavily on state
employment and welfare.
Political analysts say the price rises could boost the
popularity of the Islamist opposition, emboldened by last year's
Scattered calls for the downfall of King Abdullah in the
early days of the unrest have fizzled out for now. The
50-year-old monarch is still seen by most of Jordan's competing
factions as a safeguard of national unity.
Protesters now mostly vent their fury on Ensour and his
"Go Ensour, Go Ensour," the crowd shouted on Friday.
"Just continue to raise prices and protect thieves and let
people burn," chanted some.
Hundreds of bearded youths cried: "People have had enough of
staying silent". Activists waved banners bearing slogans against
"theft of public money" and "rampant corruption".
The Brotherhood, the country's largest political party, and
its leftist allies say political freedoms in Jordan have eroded
in recent years. They say reforms since the wave of Arab revolts
fall short of demands for wider political representation.
The authorities accuse them of fomenting unrest and of
refusing to join a reform dialogue launched by the king in 2011.