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Mideast 'At Critical Crossroads', says Jordan's King - 2003-06-12

Following the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Middle East, Jordan's King Abdullah has called for regional and international leaders to redouble their efforts for peace in the region. The Jordanian monarch told several thousand delegates attending the International Labor Organization's annual conference in Geneva that his part of the world was at a critical crossroads.

The Jordanian king says there is an urgent need to rebuild and stabilize the Middle East region. He says the situation there is critical. He acknowledges that the credibility of countries in his region is at stake, but King Abdullah adds that the credibility of the international community also is at stake.

"Now is the time to work together, to put our full force behind the process that will lead to the handover of Iraq to a credible Iraqi government, representing all Iraqis," said King Abdullah. "And, now is the time to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

The Jordanian ruler is a key player in the Middle East peace process and champion of the so-called Road Map for peace, backed by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

Last week, King Abdullah hosted a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, at the resort of Aqaba where the road map peace plan took center stage.

But violence erupted soon thereafter. On Wednesday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed at least 16 people in a Jerusalem bus bombing and Israeli helicopters launched missile strikes which killed 11 Palestinians in Gaza.

King Abdullah did not directly refer to the bombings in his speech to the International Labor Conference. But he told delegates he believes the peace plan on the table is the only way out of this cycle of violence.

"Palestinians and Israelis have signed on to the peace Road map, a road map that addresses the needs of both parties," he said. "To the Israelis, this plan offers collective security guaranteed by all Arabs, a peace treaty and normal relations with Arab states, and an end to the conflict. To Palestinians, it offers an end to the occupation, a viable state, and the promise to live as a free people."

King Abdullah says that the parties pledged to make real efforts to move forward at the summit last week. He adds the process is beginning, but that the so-called friends of peace must now stay the course.

In noting the enormous difficulties ahead, the king says regional and international leaders will have to work energetically together to achieve a future of peace, security and co-existence.