- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan, Jan. 17 (UPI) — Jordan's King Abdullah II was reported Friday as warning that chances to avert a U.S. war on Iraq were slim and that alternative oil supplies were promised to the kingdom should the supplies from Iraq stopped.

Jordanian newspapers quoted the monarch as saying in a meeting with local editors and writers that despite Jordan and other countries' attempts to prevent U.S. military operations against Iraq, "chances to avoid war are slim given the realities in the region and the world."

Writers who attended Friday's meeting at the royal palace said the king's comments, some of the few he made on the record, was the first signal to his subjects to "prepare themselves for war very soon."

Abdullah said that the post-war era was "still unpredictable to all," adding he was concerned about the effect of a war on the Iraqi people, as well as on the Palestinian issue "which is still facing complications and stalemate."

He insisted that Jordan and all the other Arab countries were seeking a resolution to the Iraqi crisis through diplomatic means, but added he was unaware of an Arab initiative to end the Iraq-U.S. standoff peacefully.

"But we will support any initiative that will avert the dangers of war," he was quoted as saying.

The Arab press reported that Saudi Arabia proposed an initiative to prevent war on Iraq and quoted diplomats as saying it included the voluntary resignation of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein — a proposal recently made by Arab intellectuals meeting in London.

Arab diplomats in Amman said Arab leaders have begun exerting pressure on the Iraqi regime to give up power in return for asylum to Saddam Hussein, family and aides. But officials did not confirm this.

The Jordanian king also revealed that Arab countries have promised to supply his country with oil should they stop in case of war.

Jordan receives all its oil needs from neighboring Iraq, transported by tanker trucks, at concessionary prices and with special permission from the U.N Sanctions Committee.

Iraq has been Jordan's only oil supplier since 1990 after Saudi Arabia stopped pumping crude to the small kingdom to punish it for refusing to endorse the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait.

Abdullah insisted that the country had "sufficient reserves for a reasonable period of time."

Government officials said the kingdom had enough oil reserves to last three months. Iraq has promised to continue supplying if war broke out, and officials privately said the United States had indicated it would continue to do the same in the event of a U.S. invasion and occupation of the country.

King Abdullah said his country has "taken all precautionary measures to reduce the repercussions" of a war on Iraq, Jordan's main trading partner, and that the national economy was "capable of bearing the consequences of the war."

But he added that the kingdom "has been promised financial assistance to make up for losses" incurred by war.

The king also dismissed speculations that an American war on its eastern Arab neighbor could cause public disturbances in his country, where the majority of its population vehemently opposes such action against Iraq.

He said, "We have confidence in our people."

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