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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 00:06 GMT
Jordanian prince in WWIII warning
By Lucy Williamson
BBC Middle East reporter

Prince Hassan of Jordan
Prince Hassan urged the world community to "sort out the cards again"
Prince Hassan of Jordan has said he fears a third world war is erupting in the Middle East.

Speaking to BBC's Radio Four, he said it was an "extremely depressing" time.

Extremist voices in the region were rising, and not only individuals but states were taking the law into their own hands, the prince said.

He was speaking after a week in which Israel assassinated the spritual leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

'Spillover fears'

The prince said he feared the violence currently marking Israeli-Palestinian relations would spread to other countries in the region.

It is such a hotch-potch at the present time that I'm afraid the making of a third world war are actually taking place in front of our very eyes
Prince Hassan
"I'm afraid we'll see spillover into hostilities with Lebanon; already Hezbollah is bombing in the north," Prince Hassan said.

"A spillover into hostilities with Syria... and of course Iran is still very much on the axis of evil."

What the situation needed, he said, was an Arab intermediary, and for the international community to focus not just on security, but also a longer-term dialogue.

'Versailles for the Middle East'

On a wider scale, he said recent events in Madrid showed that centrist forces worldwide were under threat.

He added that to stand any chance of progress in the Middle East, the international community needed to be clear about the different reasons for their involvement in the region.

Sheikh Yassin
Sheikh Yassin's assassination triggered calls to revenge against Israel

"We have to sort out the cards again - the war on terror, the question of Palestine, the question of Iraq, the question of Afghanistan, WMD (weapons of mass destruction), Iran.

"It is such a hotch-potch at the present time that I'm afraid the making of a third world war is actually taking place in front of our very eyes."

The prince made his comments on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, and just days before a planned Arab summit in Tunis.

He called on all those involved in that part of the world to form a conference, saying what the region needed was "a Versailles for the Middle East".

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