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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Tricky balance of US-Jordan alliance
The BBC's Gordon Corera
By Gordon Corera
BBC correspondent in Washington

The summit was moved forward by a day thanks to Hurricane Isabel though the welcome was still warm at Camp David for King Abdullah of Jordan.

But President George W Bush's comments, like his policies, have made life distinctly difficult for the leader of one of America's few Arab allies.

US President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah at a Camp David press briefing
The relationship is important to both sides
At a joint press conference, President Bush used the opportunity to say that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had "failed as a leader" and accused him of undermining efforts to stop the violence against Israelis.

King Abdullah faces a complex political situation, one that has hung over the Hashemites since Britain installed them on the throne and created the nation of Jordan from a nearly empty desert.

And the ever-present tension between a close relationship with the West and the political sentiments of the population has worsened in recent years, in no small part due to President Bush.

The population of Jordan is roughly half Palestinian and Yasser Arafat is a hero to many even though Jordan is one of the few Arab states to make peace with Israel.

Large numbers were also well-disposed to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the Jordanian economy benefited from being one of the main smuggling routes out from Iraq.

Together, these factors make the people of Jordan increasingly disinclined to support the US and President Bush's policies, which have removed Saddam Hussein and tried to isolate Yasser Arafat.

'Frustration, confusion'

For his part, King Abdullah came wanting to ensure continued commitment to the Middle East roadmap peace process - a process which some feel is dead or barely alive and which other fear the US will back away from, not wanting to get caught in its difficulties with an election year approaching.

Jordan's King Abdullah at a Camp David press briefing
King Abdullah must walk a political tightrope
Speaking to the Washington Post, the king said he was "extremely frustrated, and, to an extent, confused" by the breakdown, faulting Israel for not helping former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Success in finding peace between Israelis and Palestinians is vital to the Jordanian monarchy in trying to stabilise the political situation in the country and draw support away from militant Islamic groups whose electoral appeal has been a source of deep concern.

US aid and support is another priority for the visit. The king also came talking about a dialogue between Iran and the US over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

He visited Tehran earlier in the month and told the Washington Post newspaper that the Iranians were keen to talk and settle the festering and growing dispute.

White House wishes

High on the American agenda for meetings has been funding for Hamas. The US has been pushing for a global crackdown on sources of money for the militant Palestinian group.

US President Bush at a Camp David press briefing
President Bush welcomed the input from King Abdullah
Confusion surrounded a decision by Jordan's Central Bank to release Hamas assets after they were initially frozen.

At a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, King Abdullah said that it was a difficult issue for Jordan but Mr Powell replied by saying that action on Hamas funding was an important issue for the Americans.

The Jordanian-US relationship is important to both sides.

The Jordanian leader is one of the few Arab leaders welcome at Camp David and as such represents a useful conduit for the wider views and concerns of the Arab world to reach the president of the United States.

The need for a United Nations resolution on Iraq and greater international involvement is another subject the two will have conferred on.

"He's got pretty good antennae," President Bush said of the king.

But for the Jordanian leader the challenge will be to do what his late father managed - to walk a tightrope between his American ally and his own people.

And to accomplish that at the moment he will need all the political skill he can muster.

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07 Aug 03  |  Middle East
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02 Jun 03  |  Middle East
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22 Apr 03  |  Middle East

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