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Jordan's King Urges Action on Mideast Peace

U.S. President George Bush is preparing for talks this week in Jordan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House that both men will face pressure to curb violence in the region from their host, Jordan's King Abdullah.

King Abdullah warns the situation in the Middle East is at a crucial point, and says the violence in Iraq is just part of the problem.

"The difficulty we are tackling with here is, we are juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it is the Palestinians, Lebanon or Iraq," noted King Abdullah.

He says, if nothing is done, all three flash points could erupt in the coming year.

"Therefore, it is time we take a really strong step forward, as part of the international community, and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis that, I fear, and I see, could possibly happen in 2007," he warned.

Speaking on the ABC television program, This Week, the king said, while Americans are more focused on Iraq, people in the region continue to believe that, until Israelis and Palestinians find a way to live together, there will be no peace anywhere in the region.

"The emotional impact that the Israeli-Palestinian problem has on the ground can be translated to the insecurity and the frustrations throughout the Middle East and the Arab world," said King Abdullah. "For me, that is the priority."

The Jordanian monarch indicated the talks he will host Wednesday and Thursday in Amman will proceed on two tracks. He said he wants to talk to President Bush about the need for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the same time, the president and Prime Minister Maliki will be discussing ways to curb the violence in Iraq.

King Abdullah said he hopes Mr. Maliki will come to Amman with a plan of action to bring the various factions in Iraq together. He said something must be done before Iraq spirals out of control.

"We are very very concerned for the future of all Iraqis," he said. "And we hope there will be something dramatic. The challenges, obviously, in front of both of them are immense."

President Bush is also under pressure to change course in Iraq from Congressional Democrats, who are about to take formal control of both the House and Senate.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois told ABC's This Week that Democrats will hold hearings on the president's policy, but will not take rash action.

"I don't think you are going to see anything that is precipitous, or is done in a manner that doesn't take into consideration the delicate balance that King Abdullah referred to in the Middle East," said Durbin. "But, yes, there is a strong national sentiment for change and new direction; yes, the Democrats in Congress want to work with this administration, and move us toward that day more quickly."

President Bush will travel to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah and Prime Minister Maliki after stops in Estonia and Latvia, where he will attend a NATO summit. He leaves Washington early Monday.