King Abdullah of Jordan said the future of the war on terrorism is linked to progress in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Jordanian leader hopes to help revive the peace process when he meets with President Bush later this week.
King Abdullah said there is no way to win the war against terrorism without movement toward peace in the Middle East. "So if for the United States," he said, "terror and extremism is the number one priority, we have to remind our friends in the United States that we need to move the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab issue forward if we're going to have a decent chance of eradicating extremism and terror around the world."
During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition program, the Jordanian leader was asked about possible U.S. action against Iraq, which President Bush has called part of an "axis of evil."
He denied Jordan would play a role in any U.S. military action against Iraq. The Jordanian leader said there is a better way to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. King Abdullah said, "We have always felt that dialogue is the best way of dealing with Iraq, trying to bring Iraq back into the international community. And we have always been concerned that the use of force might create tremendous instability in the Middle East especially when the movement on the Israeli-Palestinian front is not moving the way that we want."
On ABC television's This Week, a key member of the U.S. Senate said dialogue is not the answer. But Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he does not believe military action against Iraq is imminent. Senator Biden said, "I don't expect we are going to see any action against Iraq in terms of military action, absent serious provocation by Iraq, anywhere in the near term."
The situation in the region will be in the spotlight in the coming days in Washington with Senate hearings on Iraq and a series of high level meetings. In addition to King Abdullah, U.S. officials will be conferring with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Mr. Peres was also interviewed on Late Edition and asked about the recent Israeli attack in Gaza City that killed a leader of the militant group Hamas and 14 other Palestinians, including nine children. The operation drew heavy international condemnation because of the high number of civilian casualties. "I think it was mistake and all of us regret it," Mr. Peres said. "The heads of the army and the defense ministry said if they had known this would be the result, the operation would have never taken place."
The United States called the attack "heavy handed" and warned of its impact on prospects for peace. The Israeli foreign minister made clear there is concern Palestinian militants will retaliate. But he said he does not believe the Palestinian people want a "sea of blood."