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Iraq, Jordan Foreign Ministers Discuss Security Cooperation - 2004-03-21

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was in Amman for consultations Sunday with his Jordanian counterpart. The two officials talked about increasing cooperation and tightening border security as the non-stop violence continues to claim victims inside Iraq.

Security remains a top priority both for Iraq and neighboring countries fearful of its negative impact.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari says Iraq and Jordan are looking at ways to increase cooperation on security and intelligence gathering as part of their campaign against terrorism.

"First and foremost I think border control is missing," he said. "We are in the process of establishing that. What is missing is intelligence gathering, intelligence cooperation and coordination with our neighbors just to identify and locate all these terrorist elements or groups who are trying to inflict damage on the Iraqi people."

Mr. Zebari acknowledges it will take more time to restore Iraq's security system - police and military forces - because as he puts it, Iraq is starting from scratch.

Foreign Minister Marwan Muwasher says Jordan is ready to help.

"This is why Jordan is training 35,000 members of the police force," explained Mr. Muwasher. "This is why Jordan is training several thousand of the military, and this is why Jordan also is involved in very strong intelligence cooperation with the Iraqi government in order to stem the activities of those who are trying to infiltrate."

Mr. Muwasher says a bilateral committee also will be established to deal with some nagging issues between the two countries, including frozen Iraqi assets in Jordan and other financial questions.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari expects the committee to be set up after the Arab summit, which is scheduled for the end of the month.

He says a member of the Governing Council will represent Iraq at the summit, and Mr. Zebari says Iraq will seek political and financial support from the Arab summit for what Mr. Zebari calls the biggest reconstruction project in the region.