- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan, March 6 (UPI) — A well-known pro-Iraq activist has reportedly been arrested for his work in rousing public outrage at the possibility of a U.S. war on neighboring Iraq, other activists said Thursday.

Fawaz Zuraikat, a leading member of the Jordanian National Mobilization Committee for the Defense of Iraq, was in his office Monday night when he was arrested. Witnesses said authorities confiscated documents and computer discs form the office.

The activists said lawyers have not been able to see Zuraikat, whom they said was detained at the General Intelligence Department, and that they were not aware of the charges against him.

A member of the pro-Iraq committee said he suspected the activist's arrest was linked to his "eager enthusiasm" in organizing public campaigns against the possibility of a war and his years-long work in seeking the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The arrest of Zuraikat came on the same day the committee declared that the governor of Amman had rejected permission for a Friday anti-war demonstration.

Activists from Jordan's 13 opposition parties and 14 professional syndicates have criticized the government's decision on rallies against the United States and its policies to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

While the government has repeatedly insisted on its opposition to a possible war on its eastern neighbor — and main trading partner — it has recently received three Patriot anti-missile batteries from the United States to "defend our airspace from any direction."

Squeezed between Iraq on the east and Israel on the West, officials said the government wanted to keep its "internal front intact" ahead of and during a possible U.S. war on Iraq, thus its reluctance to grant permission for public anti-U.S. rallies.

Opposition leaders have consistently called on the government to allow the "people to express themselves," reminding Amman of the almost daily and spontaneous protests that swept the streets of Jordan during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis and war without any violent incidents reported during the entire eight months.

In 1990, Jordan's late King Hussein refused to endorse the U.S.-led coalition formed against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait and opposed the war that pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

Officials privately said that the kingdom was not ready to "pay such a heavy price again," noting that Jordan became virtually isolated in its position 12 years ago and lost economic support from the United States and the oil-rich Gulf states.

Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb recently insisted that his government was maintaining a "delicate balance" between its close economic and pan-Arab ties with Iraq, Jordan's sole oil supplier, and its relations with the United States, which provides substantial financial support to the kingdom.




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