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Jordan Concerned About Civilian Casualties in Iraq War - 2003-04-03

Jordan's prime minister summoned the U.S. ambassador in Amman to express his condemnation of the killing and destruction in neighboring Iraq.

Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb is quoted by Jordan's state news agency as telling Ambassador Edward Gnehm that Jordan holds the United States, Britain and any other country taking part in the war in Iraq responsible for protecting innocent civilians.

A statement by the U.S. Embassy says the ambassador would convey Jordan's concerns to the Bush administration, which the statement says is taking all possible means to minimize the loss of innocent lives.

The diplomatic exchange comes on the same day the state news agency published an interview with King Abdullah, who refers to the war as an invasion of Iraq, a description he had avoided in the past.

The monarch also expressed his sorrow about the increasing number of civilian casualties. He used the Arabic term "martyr" for those killed in the conflict.

King Abdullah's comments appear in part as a response to widespread public anger over the U.S.-led war and frustration with the government's pro-Western position.

In contrast with its pro-Iraq position during the 1991 Gulf War, Jordan this time has allowed American troops to be stationed in the country. The government says they are in Jordan for defensive purposes only. The Islamic Action Front political party has issued a religious ruling calling the presence of American troops a grave sin.

Anti-war demonstrations have become a weekly routine in the kingdom, since the start of the war. Jordanian journalists even organized their own demonstration to protest the coalition bombing of Iraq's information ministry.

Earlier this week, 99 leading Jordanians published a petition urging the king to condemn the war. The signatories included several former prime ministers and numerous politicians. In the petition, they said, not taking a position against what they called the aggression in Iraq would undermine the credibility of the Hashemite kingdom.