Mideast Gripped By Frigid Temperatures

(AP) The lone de-icing machine at Jordan's busy international airport worked frantically Tuesday to clear planes for takeoff after a freak snowstorm blanketed this desert country during a severe cold snap that has the region shivering.

Meteorologists are calling it the worst cold front since 1964, attributing it to a high pressure zone in northern Europe that is forcing chilly air into the Middle East. Lows dropped into the 30s Tuesday in Amman and the capital of neighboring Syria, Damascus.

In the Egyptian capital, where buildings are designed for blazing summers, the mercury dipped to 46.

"It's definitely much colder than ever before," said Mohammed Ahmed, a shivering delivery driver who had to pilot his moped through Cairo's rain-slicked streets. "I'm drinking a lot of coffee and espresso to keep warm and alert because the roads are crazy."

Damascus received its first snow of the winter, delaying flights at Damascus International Airport and snarling traffic throughout the city.

Temperatures in Baghdad were even colder, dipping below freezing Tuesday morning. It's an increasingly common occurrence this month in a city whose January temperatures average 55. Snow even fell briefly for the first time in living memory in Baghdad on Jan. 11.

The cold has Baghdad residents huddling around their kerosene heaters, even as worries mount about fuel shortages that could add to the battered populace's worries.

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