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Jordan's King Reschedules Bush Meeting for May - 2004-04-20


Jordan's King Abdullah's postponed meeting with President Bush has been tentatively rescheduled for early May. The Jordanian monarch returned home Monday from California, bypassing scheduled talks in Washington. Jordan has concerns about the revised U.S. policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, following the abrupt postponement of King Abdullah's planned visit to Washington.

The Jordanian monarch left California, where he had been meeting with business people and speaking on Middle East policy, and flew home to Amman on Monday, bypassing a scheduled meeting later in the week with President Bush. But he instructed his foreign minister to remain in Washington to meet with U.S. officials.

Secretary of State Powell said the visit was postponed, not canceled, and would be rescheduled. He added that the Bush administration will be able to address any concerns King Abdullah has about U.S. Middle East policy.

"It is a postponement. He wanted to go back and consult with members of his government. But we value his friendship and look forward to his return. And the concerns that he has, I am sure we can address. The concerns that others have expressed, I think we can address," he said.

President Bush last week announced U.S. backing for an Israeli proposal to close Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, but still allow some in parts of the West Bank. Mr. Bush also endorsed Israel's rejection of the Palestinians' demand that they be allowed to reclaim property abandoned in 1948, before the creation of the state of Israel.

The announcement - marking a shift in U.S. policy - set off a furor among Palestinians and Arab states, especially in Jordan. More than one-half of Jordan's population is Palestinian.

Mr. Powell said the change in U.S. attitude was necessary because previous peace efforts had stalled. He emphasized the dismantlement of most settlements, and added that a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East needs the agreement of all parties.

"The Middle East peace process was not moving. Despite the Mitchell Plan, the Tenet Plan, the Zinni plan, and a lot of other efforts, we were not seeing any movement. And with the initiative that was taken last week by the president, we are now looking at the possibility of settlements being evacuated - something that people have asked for and wanted for a long time," he said.

A spokesman in Amman said the Abdullah-Bush meeting will only be rescheduled after the United States clarifies its position on the peace process and the Palestinian territorial claims.

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