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Monday, 16 March, 1998, 00:55 GMT
Fury at Israeli assassination threat
sharon prince
Mr Sharon with Crown Prince Hassan last week
Jordan has reacted angrily after an Israeli minister said that the Jewish state would make another attempt to assassinate a senior Hamas official.

The comments made by Israel's minister for national infrastructure, Ariel Sharon, follow a botched attempt last September, to kill Khaled Meshal, a leader of the armed Islamic fundamentalist group.

Two Israeli secret agents were captured in Jordan after they poisoned Mr Meshal, who is also a Jordanian citizen, in the capital Amman.

King Hussein: furious at Israel's 'second time lucky' attitude
Tel Aviv refused to reveal the antidote until King Hussein got Washington to intervene.

Several Palestinian prisoners had to be freed by Israel before Jordan released the failed assassins.

Jordanian officials have been outraged by Mr Sharon's latest comments to Israeli television in which the cabinet minister said Israel would kill the Hamas leader and that he had told King Hussein that last year.

In Amman, the Israeli ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry and told of Jordan's strong and unequivocal rejection of Mr Sharon's comments.

Jordan said it viewed any attack on its citizens, regardless of where it took place, as a violation of its security. Jordan has made a strong complaint to Israel.

BBC correspondents say Mr Sharon's comments could not have been timed any better to cause maximum offence to the Jordanian authorities.

Hamas is responsible for a series of attacks inside Israel
Less than a week ago a series of talks between senior Israeli and Jordanian authorities were initiated for the first time since September.

King Hussein has said that after the attempt on Mr Meshal's life he had considered breaking off relations with Israel.

The recent talks were intended to help rebuild trust and cooperation between the two countries.

As part of that process Mr Sharon came to Jordan to meet King Hussein. In return Crown Prince Hassan led a senior delegation to Tel Aviv.

At the time of the assassination attempt on Mr Meshal, King Hussein said the future of his peace with Israel hung on whether the Hamas leader lived or died.

BBC correspondents say that given the way the King felt over the issue, he is unlikely to take Mr Sharon's comments lightly this time.

Egypt said Mr Sharon's latest remarks showed that Israel's policy was now orientated towards practicing state terrorism.

A Hamas statement issued in Jordan called Mr Sharon a "terrorist."

"We assure all Zionists that their terrorism will strengthen our steadfastness to continue a holy war and resistance against our enemy," the statement said.

See also:

27 Oct 97 | Middle East
Palestinian prisoners freed
05 Nov 97 | Middle East
Jordan election results
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