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Sunday, September 5, 1999 Published at 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK

World: Middle East

King Abdullah makes goodwill Kuwait visit

Jordan's new ambassador presents his credentials to Kuwait's Emir

By Gulf Correspondent Frank Gardner

King Abdullah II of Jordan begins a two-day visit to Kuwait on Monday.

It is the first time a Jordanian monarch has visited the Gulf state in nearly a decade of relations soured by the Iraqi invasion of 1990.

Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians and Palestinians were forced to leave Kuwait after their rulers tacitly supported Iraq.

But King Abdullah's visit is raising fresh hopes for Jordan's beleaguered economy.

The visit of Jordan's King Abdullah and Queen Rania to Kuwait may have no specific agenda but it is laden with political meaning.

It has taken Kuwaitis several years to forgive Jordan for its perceived support for Iraq's invasion nine years ago.

Economic backlash

Up until 1990 Jordanians and Palestinians formed the backbone of Kuwait's workforce, numbering around 400,000.

[ image: The King will be accompanied by Queen Rania]
The King will be accompanied by Queen Rania
Jordan's Queen Rania herself lived in Kuwait. Today there are less than 30,000 Jordanians in the oil-rich emirate.

They left in droves following the liberation to be replaced by Egyptian and South Asian workers. Jordan's economy, which also once benefitted from huge Kuwaiti subsidies, suffered accordingly.

But after two years of cautious diplomatic contacts, Kuwait's ruling al-Sabah family appear ready to bury the past. The death of Jordan's King Hussein in February drew a line over the invasion era.

King Abdullah is now a welcome visitor to the Gulf and ambassadors have recently been exchanged between Kuwait and Amman.

"This is the visit of a brother who will be made to feel at home in Kuwait," said Foreign Minister Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

But beyond the mutual goodwill, Jordanian officials are hoping this visit will bring new jobs in Kuwait and help revive the struggling Jordanian economy.

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