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Calls For Ouster Of Jordan's King Grow At Protests

In Washington, the State Department said it supported the right to peaceful protest in Jordan and elsewhere but stressed that the U.S. believed the king's reform plans would address the demonstrators concerns.

"We support King Abdullah II's roadmap for reform and the aspirations of the Jordanian people to foster a more inclusive political process that will promote security, stability, as well as economic development," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Despite the appearance of counter protesters, Jordanian authorities reported no clashes in the 10 demonstrations that took place across the country on Friday. Police and independent observers say some 7,000 people took to the street nationwide, compared with 12,000 on Tuesday.

Thousands of the pro-government loyalists had taken to the streets nationwide to support the king, waving batons and threatening his critics. "Abdullah is our king and God is our witness," some chanted.

The unrest in Jordan began late on Tuesday after the government raised prices for cooking and heating gas by 54 percent and some oil derivatives by up to 28 percent. In response, thousands of Jordanians poured into the streets, pelting riot police with stones and torching police cars, government offices and private banks in the largest and most sustained protests to hit the country since the start of the region's uprisings nearly two years ago.

Police say "outlaws" with criminal records took advantage of the disorder to rob banks and homes, attack police stations, courts and other government buildings and carry out carjackings. At least 157 people have been arrested since Tuesday.

Jordan has been hit by frequent, but small, anti-government protests over the past 23 months, but this week's demonstrations have shifted the focus from the government squarely to the king. So far, Abdullah has largely maintained control, partly by relinquishing some of his powers to parliament and amending several laws guaranteeing wider public freedoms.

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