Oman Deploys Army Units Fearing More Unrest

March 1, 2011 - 7:39 AM

Oman protests

Omanis gather at the main roundabout in Sohar, Oman, on Monday Feb. 28, 2011. Protesters set a supermarket ablaze and gathered in a seaside town on Monday in a third consecutive day of unrest that has included deadly clashes in the strategic Gulf nation. (AP Photo)

Muscat, Oman (AP) - Oman deployed troops north of the capital Muscat and near the border with the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, following three straight days of anti-government protests, a government official said.

Oman, ruled by a powerful family dynasty, is the latest Arab nation to be swept up in a wave of regional unrest that has already brought down two leaders and threatened the rule of others.

The center of protests in Oman has been the port town of Sohar, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Muscat, where demonstrators demanding higher salaries and jobs have clashed with police.

Police killed a protester in Sohar on Saturday, after demonstrations turned violent. Several government buildings and a supermarket were set on fire, local media reported.

Anticipating more unrest, the government deployed troops and military vehicles around the capital and near Oman's border with the United Arab Emirates, a government official said Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to the media.

Protests have been rare in Oman and the ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, is offering reforms to try to quell the demonstrations. On Sunday, he ordered 50,000 civil service jobs to be created and offered a monthly stipend of 150 rials ($390) for job seekers. A day earlier, the sultan replaced six Cabinet members.

A rally in support of Oman's long-serving ruler was planned later Tuesday in Muscat.

Oman shares control with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf -- the route for about 40 percent of the world's oil-tanker traffic. Oman also plays an important role as a mediator between Iran and the West because of its strong ties to Tehran and Washington.

On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the U.S. has been in contact with the Omani government and has encouraged Muscat "to undertake reforms that include economic opportunity and move toward greater inclusion and participation in a peaceful political process."