Libyans demonstrated in five cities, defying a crackdown by security forces. Reports emerged that at least 20 demonstrators have been killed in two days of clashes with pro-government groups and security forces. A U.S. rights group said at least 14 people have been arrested. In the capital of Tripoli, government supporters staged counterdemonstrations.
The antigovernment protesters demand that Moammar Ghadafi, who has ruled for more than 40 years, step down. Ghadafi has met with tribal leaders, offered to double salaries and released 110 suspected Islamic militants in an attempt to defuse public anger.
Several thousand protesters marched in the capital, Sana, clashing with police and government supporters swinging batons and daggers. Witnesses said municipal vehicles carried sticks and stones to the pro-government side.
Protesters have marched for seven straight days in Sana and other cities in Yemen. They are demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a U.S. ally, who has ruled the Arab world's poorest nation for 32 years. The demonstrators' main grievances are poverty and official corruption. Saleh's promises not to run for re-election in 2013 or to set up his son as an heir have failed to quell the anger.
At least 1,500 Egyptian workers from the Suez Canal Authority are protesting for better pay in three cities straddling the strategic waterway, one of the world's major transit routes for shipping and oil transport. The protests are part of growing labor unrest sparked by the 18-day uprising that toppled longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week.
The country's new military rulers have appealed for calm. They say they need to be able to ensure security in order to move ahead with the rapid democratic reforms protesters are demanding.
Hundreds of Kurdish protesters rallied in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah, demanding political reforms from the regional government in the semiautonomous territory. Security forces opened fire, killing at least two people. Demonstrations also took place in three southern cities.
Iraq has seen several small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centered in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.
Protesters have been staging marches for the past six weeks, including Wednesday, demanding that Jordan be transformed into a constitutional monarchy in which the prime minister is elected. Currently, King Abullah II retains the power to appoint and dismiss prime ministers and Parliament and rule by decree. Protesters also want the government to tackle high unemployment and inflation.
The marches have been largely peaceful. Earlier this week, the interior minister said demonstrators would no longer have to seek government permission for public gatherings, provided public order is not disrupted.