Jordan opposition demands PM's ouster after fatality

The first death since the beginning of pro-reform protests

Jordan's Islamic opposition, leftists and trade unions on Saturday demanded the ouster of Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit, who they blame for violence that has killed one person and injured 130.
"We demand the prime minister and intelligence chief (Mohammed Raqqad) quit," said Firas Mahadin of the March 24 youth group at a news conference organised by Islamists. "We have reached a point of no return."
His father, Muwaffaq Mahadin, a prominent leftist writer, warned "the country is heading towards a civil war and the government is responsible for that because it wants to avoid reforms."
The rift between Jordan's government and Islamists widened after the prime minister on Friday accused the main opposition movement of spreading chaos following the death of a protester, the first in the kingdom.
"Stop playing with fire... stop hiding your real intentions," Prime Minister Bakhit told Islamists in an address broadcast on Jordanian television.
"We have invited the Muslim Brotherhood for talks, away from protests and demonstrations, but apparently they have agenda to create chaos in the country," Bakhit said.
Jamil Abu Bakr, spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, said "by accusing the Muslim Brotherhood, the government is trying to escape its responsibilities" proving his calls for reform and freedom were false.
Meanwhile, Islamic Action Front (IAF) chief Hamzah Mansur, accused the government of "crimes against humanity."
"The government of Maaruf Bakhit has given proof that it does not believe in the reforms, it is a government with blood on its hands which today has committed crimes against humanity," he said.
The IAF is the main opposition party and political branch of Muslim Brotherhood which found protection in Jordan in the 1950s and 1980s when they were persecuted in Egypt and Syria.
Adopting an unusually strident tone, Bakhit accused the Muslim Brotherhood of "taking orders from the Muslim brothers in Egypt and Syria," adding their refusal to dialogue signalled they chose "chaos" for the country.
Friday's violence in Amman, the first of its kind since protests erupted three months ago, left one person dead and 130 people wounded three of them in critical condition.
It came as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates held talks with key ally King Abdullah on a previously unannounced visit.
US officials say the king has been more active in pursuing reforms compared to other leaders in the region.
The government had formed a commission for national dialogue, which was rejected by Islamists, but 15 of its members quit Friday, accusing the government of "committing a massacre" and "lack of seriousness in its commitment to reform."
With these resignations, and six others previously, the future of this panel, which now has only 31 members out of 52 initially invited to join, is uncertain.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Saad Hayel Srour has announced the opening of an investigation "to determine those responsible for violence.
"We are a strong state and we can protect our citizens," he told reporters.
The clashes erupted Friday when about 200 government supporters hurled large stones at more than 2,000 young demonstrators from different movements, including the powerful Islamist opposition.
Police broke up the protest camp of the demonstrators who were urging regime reforms and more efforts to fight corruption.
"The authorities' aim was to get rid of the group of youngsters, who remind people of the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain", a political analyst said.