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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Jordan ready to send Iraq troops
Special forces Jordanian soldier
Jordan's offer is the first from an Arab country
Jordan would consider sending troops to Iraq if the new interim government asked, King Abdullah has told the BBC.

"If the Iraqis ask us for help directly it will be very difficult for us to say no," he told the Newsnight programme.

"If they fail, then we will pay the price," King Abdullah said, adding he did not think Jordanian were "the right people" for the job, however.

The king is the first Arab leader to consider sending troops to Iraq and the move is likely to please the US.

"To have fellow Arabs patrolling I'm sure would be welcome," an unnamed US official told Reuters news agency.

In his interview, King Abdullah also warned the US that lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was undermining America's hopes of being seen as a peace-maker in the Middle East.

JORDAN'S ARMED FORCES
Active soldiers: 88,000
Air force: 12,600
Public security force/police: 25,000
One civil defence brigade
Small coastguard
Professional force

Source: Jordanian government data

"Because people don't see the movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, they look at Iraq and... they're very suspicious and they feel that this is just another extent of occupation."

US Under-Secretary of State John Bolton rejected the charge.

He said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not the root cause of unrest.

"I don't think that is the only cause of terrorism. I think that that's a convenient excuse for a lot of the terrorists. I think much of it is aimed against the West in general and the United States in particular," Mr Bolton said.

Reluctance

"My position has been beforehand not to send troops... because of Jordanian history with Iraq," King Abdullah told Newsnight - a reference to his father's open support for Iraq during the first Gulf War of 1991.

Jordan's King Abdullah and US President George W Bush, June 2004
My message... is 'tell us what you want, tell us how we can help and we have 110% support for this'
King Abdullah
"I felt that all countries that surround Iraq have their own agendas, so maybe we're not the right people to go in for the job."

"However, now there's an interim government and, we hope, a fully independent process very soon in Iraq. I presume, if the Iraqis ask us for help directly it will be very difficult for us to say no," the king added.

King Abdullah emphasised that he did not feel the Jordanians were the right people to bring Iraq security.

"Again, I would feel that we are not the right people. But at the end of the day, if there is something that we can provide, a service to the future of Iraqis then we will definitely study that proposal."

Call for help

Praising the new Iraqi leaders, whom he described as "good, tough, courageous people" he urged them to call on the Jordanian people for support.

"The challenges... that face them on security are going to be their major problem and they are going to need everybody's help," he said.

"My message to the president and prime minister is 'tell us what you want, tell us how we can help and we have 110% support for this," he said.

King Abdullah is one of the US' closest allies in the Arab region.

However, Jordanians, many of whom are of Palestinian origin, are strongly opposed to Washington's policy in the region, particularly in Iraq and Israel.




WATCH AND LISTEN
King Abdullah of Jordan:
"If we don't stand with them... then we will pay the price"



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