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Royal Hashemite Court (Jordan)

King's Interview with NBC
Amman, 15 September 2003

His Majesty King Abdullah II affirmed the necessity to pursue efforts to push the Middle East peace process forward because any other alternative can only lead to further killing and destruction.

In an interview with NBC satellite channel "Today Show," the King said that the international community should work to assuage the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis to break the cycle of violence, noting that the Israeli threats to expel the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat or assassinating him are very dangerous and could create further feud between the two sides.

Regarding the Iraqi situation, the King expressed his belief that forming the Iraqi interim government is a step in the right direction expressing his hope that the UN and the US could help the Iraqis shape the future they aspire for.

Asked whether the message of peace and reconciliation he is carrying to Washington is realistic in the wake of increasing bloodshed and violence in the Palestinian areas, King Abdullah said "We have to pursue efforts to push the peace process forward because we have seen what were the alternatives over the past three years, more victims and more destruction. Therefore, we, as part of the international community, have to continue advancing the peace process and to calm the situation on both sides as soon as possible."

On Israel's demand to oust or even assassinate Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, King Abdullah said expelling, or God forbid, assassinating him would a very dangerous precedent. This would only lead to more hostility between the Palestinians and the Israelis and to more blood shedding.

"As I said in Aqaba, I was very optimistic when there was a consensus to launch the Roadmap, but I also said the extremists would try to prevent this. Therefore, we have to expect setbacks and what we have to do is to continue working to achieve progress and implement the Roadmap as soon as possible."

Asked whether President Arafat could be peace partner and we can count on him to go ahead in the Roadmap, King Abdullah said there have been difficulties within the Palestinian Authority and they were at the expense of the Palestinians themselves. Unfortunately, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas resigned, but we were aware of the circumstances around all this, he did not gain support from the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis should have given greater support, the King said.

President Arafat and the Israeli government should have given more support to Abbas, who has had big challenges and he hasn't got enough tools to do what he has to do. "Now, we have come back to the beginning with a new Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia, whom I count on too much and we need to bring the peace process back into right track and we hope President Arafat and the Israelis would take up constructive positions so we can move the peace process anew," King Abdullah said.

King Abdullah affirmed that the only way to get rid of the current disappointing situation is to implement the Roadmap, which is a very strong tool and has been approved by all parties including the United States.

Answering a question on why the Roadmap has been implemented, King Abdullah said there haven't been enough pressures exercised on both sides (the Palestinians and the Israelis) to honour what has been expected from them. "I think the Israelis and the Palestinians should come under more accountability by the international community and the U.S.," King Abdullah said.

Asked about Jordan's role in these pressures, King Abdullah said "We worked hard with both parties to overcome the disagreements and fortunately Jordan has always been an impartial mediator and this was a very positive part in the peace process but we need more international pressures." The U.S. President has been forthcoming and serious in finding a solution for this but there are problems on the ground that should be settled, the King said."

We now have a new Prime Minister and we have to support the new government to do its job and open dialogue with the United States... I know there are some standing issues, and part of my visit to the United States is to discuss with our American friends what can be done to bring the concerned parties back to dialogue and break down the cycle of violence.

In reply to a question in Iraq and why Jordan has refused to send forces to this country, King Abdullah said "From a moral point of view, I don't think we fear sending troops to areas of conflicts around the world. We have troops in Afghanistan right from the beginning when the U.S. started to rebuild this country. I think the Iraqis would find it difficult to see forces present in the country coming from the neighbouring countries that would like to have distinguished relations with Iraq and would like to have fair standpoint. We are playing an efficient role in Iraq through our field military hospital offering medical services to thousands of Iraqis and we are trying to join in rebuilding Iraq but I don't think we are the appropriate state to send troops to Iraq."

Asked whether the U.S. and the UN would be able to settle their differences and send more international forces to Iraq, King Abdullah said U.S. President has called for this and with Secretary of State Powell's visit to Baghdad to see the situation on the ground "I think the President has right in his policy. I know it would be a hard conflict but the U.S. and the UN would eventually be able to help the Iraqis shape the future they aspire for," the King said.

On the U.S. policy in Iraq, King Abdullah said the formation of an interim government in Iraq was a step in the right direction but we need to see progress in the work of this government as soon as possible to help the Iraqis determine their future and this part of the President Bush's policy but he needs support from the international community.