Clinton Pays Respect To Islam, Witnesses Peace Signing
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Declaring his respect for Islam, President Clinton witnessed a new promise of Mideast peace today as he added his signature to a treaty between Israel and Jordan. ″You have sent a signal to the entire Arab world that peace is unstoppable,″ he told Jordan’s parliament.
″America refuses to accept that our civilizations must collide,″ Clinton said in seeking to build bridges with the Muslim world, a volatile fraction of which has declared war through terrorism on the U.S.-led peacemaking process.
″We respect Islam,″ Clinton said, King Hussein paying close attention in a parliament he has gradually imbued with more democratic power. ″The chance to live in harmony with our neighbors and to build a better life with our children is the hope that brings us all together,″ the president said.
In his address, Clinton commended Israel and its Arab neighbor for rejecting ″the dark forces of terrorism and extremism.″ Promising American help in keeping peace alive, he said, ″We will not let you down.″
Throughout his fast-paced trip to the Middle East the president has urged Israel and the Arabs to form a united front against Hamas and other extremist groups, denouncing them as ″enemies of peace.″ Here, before the Jordanian Parliament, he made clear that America’s argument is not with Islam but with a violent minority.
Still, the 16 members of the parliament’s Islamic bloc boycotted the speech along with at least three other members, a sizable percentage of the 80-member body.
Earlier, Clinton joined Israel and Jordanian leaders on a paved-over mine field to formally end 45 years of hostilities. He urged them to ″make this peace real.″
″We break the chains of the past that for too long have kept you shackled in the shadows of strife and suffering,″ said Clinton in the desert-hot ceremony. He said it was up to the people of Israel and Jordan now to ″turn no man’s land into every man’s home. Open your borders. Open your hearts.″
In an historic address to the Jordanian Parliament, he urged the countries to stand guard against terrorists who ″stoke the fires of violence. They seek to destroy the progress of this peace.″
″To them I say, you cannot succeed. You will not succeed. You must not succeed. For you are the past, not the future,″ Clinton declared.
To the Jordanians and Israelis, he said, ″You have sent a signal to the entire Arab world that peace in unstoppable,″
Clinton promised to work with Jordan to meet its ″legitimate defense requirements and give you the security you deserve.″ He also promised economic assistance, including a possible treaty to ease trade barriers.
″If people do not feel these benefits ... then the purveyors of fear″ will prosper, Clinton said. ″Our goal must be to spread prosperity and security to all.″
Jordan’s Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin praised Clinton during the ceremony at a border site near the Red Sea.
Earlier, Clinton had met in Cairo, Egypt, with Arafat - a critic of the agreement who boycotted the ceremony. He said that the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization gave him a ″firm and unambiguous″ promise to fight the Hamas and other extremist groups.
Clinton, who had expressed frustration with the recent wave of violence in the region, proclaimed himself ″satisfied with the response.″
In Cairo, Clinton had met with Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak, whose country made peace with Israel 15 years ago, said the countries laboring for reconciliation in the troubled region must not allow terrorists to ″spoil the peace process.″
The United States has appealed to Arafat to do more to rein in militants in Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho, which the PLO administers under its agreement with Israel. But, so far Arafat has had limited success in controlling the extremists.
Clinton began his six-nation Mideast trip with a visit in the early morning darkness to the grave of assassinated Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, who signed the Arab world’s first full peace pact with Israel.
Arafat did not appear at a news conference with Clinton and Mubarak.
At a photo session at the beginning of their meeting, however, the PLO leader was asked how he would choose. ″My choice is the peace, the peace of the brave,″ he replied.
Today’s meetings were held in the 400-room government Qubeh Palace, where Clinton spent the night. Blue-helmeted soldiers stood guard outside the sprawling limestone structure that was built in 1872.
Clinton and his wife, Hillary, arrived at 1 a.m. in Cairo and were greeted by Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne. They then visited the tomb of Egypt’s unknown soldier and Sadat’s tomb. Clinton placed a wreath at each tomb, then bowed his head in silent prayer.
When Clinton speaks on Thursday to the Israeli Knesset, he will make the point that Israel has never lived in greater peace in its history than it does today, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On Thursday, he will travel to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Hafez Assad. Peace talks between Israel and Syria have dragged on inconclusively for three years, and Clinton hopes to nudge them along.