King Hussein, Clinton Discuss Iraq
Jan. 05, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ With Mideast diplomacy in low gear, King Hussein of Jordan called on President Clinton at the White House today on his way home from six months of cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
Iraq was one of the topics they discussed in a half-hour session. Clinton told the king he considers Iraq a threat to regional stability, David Leavy, a White House spokesman, said.
Jordan, with U.N. approval, barters some food and manufactured goods to Iraq for oil the Jordanian economy needs. But the Hashemite kingdom has felt the impact of a worldwide trade embargo on Iraq, its larger and more powerful neighbor.
Other goods are smuggled overland to Iraq, possibly with the tacit approval of the governments of neighboring countries.
The Clinton administration, mindful of Jordan's problems and appreciative of the king's support for U.S. diplomacy in the Arab-Israeli dispute, plans to boost economic assistance to the kingdom.
Hussein then went to the State Department to continue the talks with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Despite his illness, the king played a supporting role to Clinton at the talks in Maryland in October that produced a West Bank agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
At peace with Israel, the king has tried to persuade both sides to come to terms on an overall settlement.
Hussein has been at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., since mid-July. He plans to go to London when he leaves Washington, and then home to Jordan in mid-January.
Meanwhile, with the Wye accord on hold, Albright has decided against a trip to Israel and is sending senior adviser Dennis B. Ross in her place.
Ross is due to meet in New York this week with Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon and will then fly to Israel to speak to and attend a meeting in Tel Aviv next week of the governing board of the Peres Center for Peace.
The center seeks to further the goals of Shimon Peres, the former Labor prime minister, who pursued a course of conciliatory peacemaking with the Palestinians and with Syria.
The State Department spokesman, James P. Rubin, on Monday dismissed a report in the Israeli media that Albright had refused to meet with Sharon. Rubin also said Ross had agreed to speak at the Peres center before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to hold elections. They are scheduled for May 17.
``It is not our role to interfere in an election campaign,'' Rubin said.
Sharon will meet in New York on Thursday and Friday with Israeli consuls general. He also is expected to spend a few hours in Washington. Ross will see him on Friday.
Rubin said the Israeli government had asked for a meeting with Albright or Ross, expressing no preference.
``The suggestion that there's some problem between us and the Israeli foreign ministry is simply incorrect,'' the spokesman said.
Clinton went to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza last month to try to break the stalemate in implementing the Wye accords.
He said he would send Albright back in January. But Rubin said the focus of such a trip would have been to promote the start of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on an overall settlement, which has now been delayed.
In the meantime, the Wye accords have been shelved, with Israel insisting that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority first collect illegal weapons, reduce its police force, curb incitements to violence and renounce intentions to establish a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians, with support from the Clinton administration, have rejected the demands as new conditions that were not part of the agreement reached at the Wye River Conference Center in rural Maryland.