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Jordan Endeavors to End War in Iraq Through Intensive Diplomacy - 2003-03-25


Jordan's Foreign Minister says his government is intensifying diplomatic efforts to end the war in neighboring Iraq. The moves echo a similar initiative by Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher told a news conference Jordan's King Abdullah has been talking with President Bush and the leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in an effort to end the war in Iraq now.

"What we are trying to do is explore the positions of all sides and try to come to a common position that would satisfy all the parties and that might lead to the end of hostilities," Mr. Muasher said.

Mr. Muasher said Jordan has not yet formulated a specific plan. "The idea is not to propose a preset set of ideas but rather to explore with all the parties concerned what can be done in order to try to find a quick way out," he explained.

The Jordanian official says the deteriorating situation inside Iraq has compelled his government to make the effort. Jordan and other Arab governments also worry about the political and economic fallout from a prolonged war in Iraq.

"We realize we are a small country but we are not working alone. And we do have good relations with everyone, including the United States, including Britain, including the P-5 [permanent U.N. Security Council members] and including of course Arab countries. And it is imperative, we believe, that all our good relations with the international community should be employed in order to try to find a diplomatic way out," Mr. Muasher said.

Jordan's relations with neighboring Iraq however have deteriorated during the past several months, especially after King Abdullah allowed a few thousand U.S. troops into Jordan. The government said the presence of American forces is for defensive purposes and their numbers will not increase.

This week, bilateral relations soured even more after Jordan expelled three Iraqi diplomats. Mr. Muasher insists the expulsions had nothing to do with a U.S. request last week for countries around the world to close Iraqi missions. He said the expulsion order for some of the Iraqi diplomats in Jordan was purely a security matter. Responding to harsh words from Baghdad earlier in the day over the issue, Mr. Muasher said only that Iraq is aware of the reason for the expulsion.

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