Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Jordan could send troops to Iraq if asked, king says

DPA , LONDON

Jordan may be willing to be the first Arab country to send troops to Iraq if asked by the interim government, King Abdullah told the BBC in an interview broadcast Thursday evening.

"If the Iraqis ask us for help directly, it will be very difficult for us to say no," he said.

The king qualified his remarks by saying he did not think Jordan was right for the role. Asked whether this meant sending troops, he said: "I presume so. I would feel that we are not the right people. But at the end of the day, if there is something that we can provide, a service to the future of the Iraqis, then we will definitely study that proposal."

Abdullah backed the new government, referring to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as a "tough, good warhorse, exactly what Iraq needs" in an interview with Friday's Times.

"I'm pretty impressed with the Iraqi interim government," he said.

But he also warned that violence in Iraq would continue and that the Middle East faces a tough year fighting terrorism.

Abdullah said Jordan was already helping to train the Iraqi police and army by providing assistance to the customs department and helping the ministries responsible for infrastructure.

On terrorism in the Middle East, the king repeated his view that terrorists could not be beaten by killing them, but rather by tackling terrorism's root cause.

"The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is the greatest way of shutting down the recruiters" for terrorism, he said.

Abdullah backed political reform throughout the region, saying violence in Iraq should not be an excuse for Arab governments to delay reform.

"There is tremendous frustration in the Middle East that makes political reform a bit more difficult in some countries than others," he added.

Referring to regional democratization, he told the Times: "What was almost taboo six months ago is now openly spoken about and discussed throughout the Middle East."

Abdullah told the Times he had tried to persuade other Arab leaders of the need for reform.

"My advice to any colleagues who wanted to listen was: If you don't come up with your own principles of reform, then you may find that one is forced on you which would be tremendously negative," he said.

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