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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Jordan protests over Iraqi deaths
King Abdullah of Jordan
King Abdullah faces criticism from his people
The Jordanian Government has summoned the United States ambassador to condemn the killing of civilians by coalition forces in Iraq.

A key Western ally with US troops on its soil, Jordan is becoming increasingly critical of the war, the BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Amman.

The Jordanian Prime Minister, Ali Abu al-Raghib, told US Ambassador Edward Gnehm that the US and Britain "were responsible for protecting the lives of innocent civilians".

He called for an end to the conflict so the suffering of the Iraqi people would stop.

The US ambassador admitted there were differences of opinion over the war and said in a statement his government was "taking all possible means to minimise... the loss of innocent life".

King speaks out

Jordan's King Abdullah for the first time spoke out forcefully against the Iraq war on Wednesday, deploring civilian casualties caused by the conflict.

King Abdullah told the state news agency Petra he felt "pained and saddened when we watch on television the increasing number of martyrs among innocent Iraqi civilians".

"I, as a father, feel the pain of every Iraqi family, every child and father."

US flag spread on ground of schoolyard for protesters to walk over
Anti-war sentiment is mounting in Jordan
Anti-war sentiment is mounting in Jordan, where the king has been criticised for failing to oppose the US-led action in Iraq.

Until now, Jordan has been much more neutral, our correspondent says.

King Abdullah said he had contacted other countries before the war started in an attempt to prevent the conflict.

"I am a Muslim, an Arab and a Hashemite and nobody can outbid my concern for my people and my (Arab) nation," he said.

Airspace denied

He said that coalition forces had asked Jordan for use of its airspace, a request he "adamantly rejected".

Jordan had "faced a lot of problems as a result of our position which rejects war and calls for a peaceful settlement of this crisis and through the United Nations," he added.

He said Jordan had warned on numerous occasions that the war would have "destructive effects," not only on Iraq but "also on the whole region".

The violence would create "extremism".

Thought to be a reference to Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear bombs, he said weapons of mass destruction should "be removed from all countries, not one and excluding another".

On a post-Iraq, he emphasised that the Iraqi people should be free to choose their leaders.

"We can't imagine that any people could accept a leadership imposed from outside and against its will."




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