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Jordan's Prince Hassan Speaks Out on Possible Iraq War - 2003-02-26


Like most Arab countries, Jordan would like to find a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis. As one of Iraq's neighbors, Jordan is concerned about the increasing likelihood of war on its eastern border. VOA's Sonja Pace spoke about the issue in an interview in the Jordanian capital, Amman with the country's former Crown Prince Hassan.

Hassan bin Talal still clings to some hope for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis, but he also says time is running out.

He says if the Iraqi leadership does not disarm, the United Nations will have to take action. Prince Hassan says he hopes that if military action is taken, it will be swift and as bloodless as possible.

The prince said he worries about what will happen after a war in Iraq.

"My greatest concern is 'Balkanization' ethnic and sectarian bloodletting, vengeance between members of the old regime, and those who have suffered for decades," he said.

Prince Hassan says it is vital to follow what he calls an "inclusionist" concept, which brings every component of Iraqi society into a future government that offers something for everybody. He favors setting up a provisional council along those lines.

Prince Hassan said such a model would have to be imposed from outside, but he warns that the foreign powers will have to be careful.

"The basic concern in this part of the world is that you end up with direct rule, in this instance American rule," he said. "The imposition from outside is going to be quite worrisome if it is not built on some kind of cultural affinity, which means that if you have a general from country-X...ruling Iraq, I think it is going to be the writing on the wall. Possibly a garrisoning for a period of time, with undesirable consequences."

Even though Prince Hassan stressed the need to have Iraqis participate in a post-war government, he also believes the Iraqi opposition parties will not be able to set it up. The Prince attended a meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders last year in London, and was not impressed with their plans.

"I was rather depressed because I felt individualism was being promoted there - individual Kurdish, Shia, Sunni, Christian, and Chaldean agendas," the prince said. "My attendance as someone without an agenda was possibly welcomed simply because I went to talk about how wars end. And my concern that if there is not an 'inclusionist' process, that far from developing a state system on the basis of a model Iraq, as a beacon of hope building from the bottom up, we might end up with a situation of warlordism rather similar to what Afghanistan is facing today."

Prince Hassan served as Jordan's Crown Prince for more than three decades under his brother, King Hussein. But, just a few weeks before his death in 1999, King Hussein named his eldest son, Abdullah as Crown Prince. Upon the King's death, Abdullah took over as ruler and Prince Hassan stepped into the background. The Prince still attends international conferences, but has only recently begun to speak out again on political issues. Prince Hassan acknowledges that Jordan is in a difficult position, wedged between Iraq on one side and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the other.

Jordan depends on Iraq as its sole supplier of oil, yet it is also an ally of the United States and one of only two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel. Meanwhile, Jordan's population, with a Palestinian majority, sympathizes greatly with the plight of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and with their more than two-year-old uprising against Israel.

And, so Jordan treads a fine line something Prince Hassan is aware of. He says even though war against Iraq is likely, there could possibly be a positive outcome.

"Maybe the war has already been won because the gun is very clearly pointed at the head of the Iraqi regime, and I just hope that they can see sense and respond to international demands for disarmament, which would open the way, in my view, to [a] weapons of mass destruction disarmament regime from Israel to India inclusive," he said.

Prince Hassan is adamant about broader disarmament and about the need for Arab countries to institute democratic reforms.

He says if anything positive is to come out of a war with Iraq the international community, especially the United States, must live up to its commitment to address such issues as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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