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Shultz Says Jordan’s Hussein ‘Intrigued’ with U.S. Peace Plan

April 1, 1988

SHANNON, Ireland (AP) _ Despite an uncertain outlook, Secretary of State George P. Shultz was set Thursday to try again to persuade Arabs and Israelis to open negotiations May 1.

Shultz made no prediction on how much progress the U.S. peace plan would make in the Middle East during his shuttle diplomacy there next week, but he was cautiously upbeat, particularly about King Hussein of Jordan.

″The Jordanians are quite intrigued with this,″ Shultz said, ″and I look forward to intensive discussions with the king.″

He described the Israelis, meanwhile, as having ″varying views.″ Clearly referring to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Shultz said he would point out that the peace conference he is proposing is not the active authority that is causing objections in Jerusalem.

It simply would set up direct negotiations between the Arabs and Israelis, Shultz said.

Israel, Jordan and Syria all have neither accepted nor rejected Shultz’s proposal.

″When they are reluctant to say no, it means everybody understands the importance of trying to find a way to peace and security,″ he told reporters aboard his U.S. Air Force jet.

After refueling here, Shultz headed for Rome for Easter observances and meetings with Italian officials. He is shopping for a new home for 72 U.S. F- 16 jet fighters that Spain will expel from the Torrejon air base near Madrid in 1991.

Italy is a prime candidate, along with Portugal and Turkey.

Then Shultz flies to Israel on Sunday to begin a five-day Mideast venture that also will take him to Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It will be Shultz’s second intensive tour of the Middle East in a month.

During his trip, Shultz also hoped to make headway on Lebanon in discussions with Syrian President Hafez Assad.

The State Department’s director of Lebanon, Jordan and Syrian affairs, April Glaspie, already is in Damascus where Shultz will see Assad next week.

U.S. and diplomatic sources said the Syrian leader may be interested in arrangements for a new distribution of power among vying sects in Lebanon’s 12-year-old civil war.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 21 senators urged Shultz to refrain from meeting with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, saying his meeting last week with two Palestinian Americans ″sets a dangerous precedent.″

Shultz met last Saturday in Washington with two university professors who are members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliamentary arm. He denied that his meeting violated U.S. law which forbids negotiating with the PLO, saying that not all PNC members are also members in the PLO.

But the senators said they see ″no distinction between the PLO and the PNC.″

The senators said they wished Shultz success on his mission and hoped he would be able to meet with Palestinians who are not PLO members. An attempt by Shultz to meet with 15 Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied territories during his last trip to the region several weeks ago failed when the PLO refused to endorse the meeting and the Palestinians did not show up.

The mid-March deadline he set for a reply to his plan for negotiations has passed. But impelled by violence on the Israeli-held West Bank and in Gaza - 123 Palestinian Arabs and an Israeli soldier have been killed in less than three months - Shultz is determined to keep trying.

U.S. officials find some hope in the fact that while Israel, Jordan and Syria have not accepted the plan they also have not rejected it. Only Egypt has given its endorsement.

The plan calls for a Mideast conference in April to launch the negotiations. They would open on May 1 and deal with providing some form of self-rule to Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Israel would deal with a joint delegation of Jordanians and Palestinian Arabs to work an interim arrangement to last three years.

Meanwhile, negotiations on an overall settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute that also would involve Syria would begin in December.

Primarily because of Syria’s key role in the Middle East, Shultz had drawn Assad into the discussions after several years of icy relations, U.S. officials said.

But they said Shultz also was taking up with Assad the possibility of new arrangements in Lebanon, where the Syrians have dominated politics. Assad, meanwhile, may be interested in reducing Syria’s involvement in the country, said the officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

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