- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

AMMAN, Jordan When Jordan's king meets President Bush in Washington today, topping his agenda will be U.S. hints about military operations against Iraq and the turbulent situation in the Palestinian territories, palace officials said yesterday.

However, it appears King Abdullah II has toned down his condemnation of any move against Iraq. In London, where he stopped on his way to Washington, he sought to "delay" any action against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, according to reports, focusing instead on first buying time for progress on peace in the Middle East.

One palace source also said that King Abdullah "will try to explain the difficult position we are in" since the United States has affirmed its policy to support a regime change in Iraq, Jordan's eastern neighbor.

Analysts in Jordan's capital, Amman, said the U.S. policy on Iraq was forcing Jordan into a difficult juggling act between maintaining its strong ties with Washington while sustaining its geographic, historic and pan-Arab links with Iraq.

Both palace sources and government officials said the monarch, set to meet Mr. Bush for the sixth time, will express his country's growing concern over the outcome of potential U.S. military strikes against Iraq. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the king would tell Mr. Bush that such plans threaten to destabilize the region.

King Abdullah told the Times of London daily this week: "In light of the failure to move the Israeli-Palestinian process forward, military action against Iraq would really open a Pandora's box."

While Jordan depends heavily on U.S. financial assistance, it also looks to Iraq for oil at concessionary prices under special permission from the U.N. sanctions committee supervising the international embargo on Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

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