Wed, Mar 23, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Iraq and Jordan set to resume diplomatic relations

AP , BAGHDAD, IRAQ

An Iraqi looks at the damage following a road side bomb in the northern city of Mosul yesterday. The bomb detonated as a US convoy drove by, killing four civilians caught in the explosion.

PHOTO: AFP

Jordan announced its top diplomat would return to Iraq only days after the neighboring countries withdrew their highest envoys amid heightened tensions and the US military reported yesterday that a Marine was killed in action in a strife-riven western province.

The US Marine, assigned to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, died Monday in Anbar province, which contains the flashpoint cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, the US military said in a statement. No further details were given. The Marine's name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II on Monday ordered the return of Jordan's top diplomat in Iraq, days after the two neighbors withdrew their envoys in a dispute over the infiltration of insurgents across the border, the official Jordanian news agency, Petra, reported.

Petra reported that the king ordered the Jordanian charge d'affaires to return to the embassy in Baghdad "to keep the good relations between the two brotherly countries."

Iraq and Jordan engaged in a tit-for-tat withdrawal of envoys Sunday in a dispute over Iraqi claims that Jordan was failing to stop would-be insurgents from slipping across the border and allegations that a Jordanian had carried out a deadly suicide attack this month.

Both countries said the diplomats were being recalled for "consultations."

In a bid to heal the rift, Jordan's Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez met outgoing Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Monday in Algiers, Algeria, where they are attending the Arab summit that starts yesterday.

Petra quoted Fayez in Algiers as condemning the insurgency in Iraq and saying: "Terror knows no religion or nationality and Jordan has faced several terrorist attempts targeting its security and stability."

Tension between the two countries boiled over last week. At one point, Iraqi demonstrators angered over the alleged involvement of a Jordanian in a deadly suicide bombing hoisted the Iraqi flag at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.

And the leading political party, the United Iraqi Alliance, claimed Jordan was allowing insurgents to cross into Iraq.

Yesterday morning, residents in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood surveyed homes splattered with shrapnel in a late Monday mortar barrage that knocked out windows and felled walls. No casualties were reported.

On Monday, the US military outlined two joint raids by US and Iraqi forces that netted a total of 43 insurgents. One was carried out before dawn in Kirkuk, taking into custody 13 people believed tied to the fatal attack against a local police officer, then the bombing of his funeral procession that left three more officers dead.

Seeking to seal a political deal after Jan. 30 elections, the Shiite-clergy's spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was expected to meet Wednesday with Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader likely to become Iraq's next president.

The Kurds want the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk to be returned to the autonomous Kurdistan region immediately after the government convenes, but an official from al-Sistani's office said the spiritual leader wants the country's new National Assembly to decide that in Iraq's future constitution.

Former dictator Saddam Hussein conducted ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk and the surrounding region, driving Kurds from their homes and replacing them with Iraqi Arabs.

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