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King Abdullah: Conflict with Iraq Would be 'Devastating' to Region - 2002-05-13

Jordan's King Abdullah has finished a Washington visit with a warning against U.S. military action against Iraq. He says such a conflict, on top of the already-serious Israeli-Palestinian situation, would be "devastating" for the region.

The Jordanian monarch says the Iraqi leadership needs to be told that international public opinion is strongly against them because of their defiance of the U.N. weapons inspections regime.

But at a luncheon sponsored by Washington's Brookings Institution that ended a week-long U.S. visit, King Abdullah, whose country shares a long border and has extensive trade with Iraq, appealed for a further chance for dialogue with Saddam Hussein.

He said a U.S. military move against Iraq, given the already-inflamed state of Arab public opinion over the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, would have devastating effects for the region.

King Abdullah said, "With the Israeli-Palestinian crisis going on, with the anger and frustration throughout the Middle East really at levels people cannot take any more, another armed conflict in the region would be too much for people to bear. And I think that let's give dialogue a chance."

King Abdullah recalled how his father, the late King Hussein, saw himself isolated and estranged from his ally in Washington for persistently advocating dialogue with Saddam Hussein after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

In hindsight, King Abdullah said he cannot say today that his father was right in opposing the U.S.-led military action that eventually expelled the Iraqis, but nor, he said, can it be said for sure that he was wrong.

President Bush, in January, listed Iraq along with Iran and North Korea, as part of an "axis of evil" of countries sponsoring terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration has made "regime change" in Baghdad a stated goal of U.S. policy, though under questioning at the luncheon, King Abdullah suggested there are differences, even among top administration officials, over how to achieve that.