Jordan King Snubs Bush
Over US Support Of Israel
King Abdullah of Jordan has postponed talks with US President George W Bush on Wednesday amid concern over America's support for Israeli policy.
The snub from King Abdullah II comes amid Arab anger at Bush for endorsing an Israeli proposal to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Stripand parts of the West Bank but keep Jewish settlements on other West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians.
Abdullah is under pressure at home to demonstrate his U.S. ties can further Arab positions on the Israeli-Palestinian question as well as on the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
The White House played down any hint of friction with Jordan, saying the Wednesday meeting with King Abdullah was rescheduled to the first week of May "because of developments in the region."
"The king decided this week it was better for him to be in Jordan and we understand that," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said.
But Abdullah has been in the United States since last week and it was not clear whether he had left. A palace statement said Abdullah instructed his foreign minister to remain in Washington to continue meetings and discussions with officials in the Bush administration and to prepare for the king's return to the United States in May.
The Abdullah-Bush meeting would not be held "until discussions and deliberations are concluded with officials in the American administration to clarify the American position on the peace process and the final situation in the Palestinian territories, especially in light of the latest statements by officials in the American administration," according to the palace statement.
Bush's statement after a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharonlast week constituted a historic shift in U.S. policy, and Palestinian leaders accused the administration of undercutting the possibility of a negotiated settlement.
Jordan is considered a key moderate ally of the United States and is one of only two of Israel's Arab neighbors to have a peace treaty with the Jewish state. But some Jordanian citizens question their government's relationship with the United States, which they accuse of siding with Israel against the Palestinians.
Jordan is especially concerned that a final peace settlement would be at its expense if refugees were dumped into the kingdom, exhausting its meager resources and disturbing its demographic balance. Roughly half of Jordan's 5.1 million population is composed of Palestinian families who fled or were forced out of their homes in 1948 and 1967 Mideast wars.
The rift between the Bush administration and its moderate Arab allies over Bush's statement on Israeli settlements is one of the worst to emerge in years ? and has exacerbated the already tense relations between the United States and Arab countries over the war in Iraq.
Arab leaders have accused the administration of essentially taking away from the Palestinians their primary negotiating levers in any final peace deal ? the disputes over whether Israel must remove all settlements from the West Bank, and whether Israel must allow back some Palestinian refugees.
Bush embraced Israeli rejection of any "right of return" for Palestinian refugees after his meeting with Sharon. Tensions also were inflamed in the Arab world by an Israeli helicopter strike that killed the Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
On Saturday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, also canceled a trip to Washington for meetings in the wake of the Bush announcement on settlements. Secretary of State Colin Powell had been expecting to meet with Shaath on Wednesday.
Last week, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said his government wants assurances that Washington is still committed to an Arab-Israeli settlement based on exchanging land-for-peace and creating a Palestinian state by next year in line with the U.S.-backed road map peace plan.
The palace statement said the king sent a letter to Bush on April 8 in which he stressed the Jordanian position regarding ways to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through implementing the internationally backed "road map."
In his letter, Abdullah said an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza must be part of the peace plan and not an alternative to it.
Despite the dramatic step of postponing a meeting with the president, the palace statement said, "Jordan sees that the contents of his majesty's letter to Bush comprises significant elements for the continuation of discussions between the American and Jordanian sides."
Relations between the two countries also were close under Abdullah's late father, King Hussein. The United States is Jordan's largest Western aid donor, with contributions estimated at $456 million this year. The United States gave Jordan $1.1 billion last year to offset the kingdom's losses because of the war on Iraq.



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