Jordan urges U.S. to soften stance on gulf King, in broadcast, seeks troop pullout from Saudi Arabia

September 23, 1990|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Sun Staff Correspondent

AMMAN, Jordan -- Faced with growing diplomatic and economic pressure to break with Iraq, Jordan's King Hussein condemned yesterday Iraq's occupation of Kuwait but urged the United States to drop its demand for an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal.

Addressing his televised remarks directly to the United States, the king said Washington would have to soften its demands if the region was to avoid a war that would cause "untold death, destruction and misery." He asked the United States and its allies to withdraw their forces from Saudi Arabia at the earliest possible date.

King Hussein was appealing for U.S. support for his attempts to find a middle ground in the conflict, attempts that have preserved some of Jordan's economic links with Iraq but angered Saudi Arabia and the United States and left Jordan isolated and nearly broke.

Saudi Arabia increased its pressure on Iraq's Arab allies yesterday by ordering the expulsion of 20 Jordanian diplomats and virtually the entire staff of the embassy of Yemen.

King Hussein said the report of expulsions was "a fabricated story," but a Saudi Foreign Ministry statement later confirmed the action.

[The statement said the diplomats had been warned they were engaged in unspecified "activities jeopardizing the peace and security of the kingdom," the Associated Press reported.

["To our deep regret, the activities in question have continued," the Saudi statement said. "Authorities were obliged to ask the respective governments to recall those diplomats and to limit the number of personnel in these missions."

[Sources told the Associated Press that the Iraqi, Yemeni and Jordanian diplomats were accused of planning terrorist acts. The sources said Saudi intelligence found that the Jordanians and Yemenis were helping Iraqi envoys gain access to areas that had been off-limits to Iraqis since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

[A diplomatic official in Saudi Arabia said the alleged spying activity was aimed at part of the Eastern province, an oil-rich area in northeastern Saudi Arabia where most of the U.S. troops are deployed.]

Saudi officials notified the Jordanian diplomats that they had seven days to leave and would allow only a skeleton six-person staff to remain. In Yemen, Foreign Ministry officials said Saudi Arabia was expelling 20 Yemeni diplomats and a 30-person support group, leaving only the ambassador and a staff of two.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia gave unmistakable proof of its displeasure with Jordan by giving it six hours' notice before closing the pipeline providing about 60 percent of Jordan's oil supplies. Jordanian officials say they are uncertain whether Jordan can afford replacement supplies and are debating whether to reduce electricity generated by fuel oil and to ration gasoline.

Jordan was receiving the other 40 percent of its oil and refined products from Iraq, in violation of the United Nations trade embargo against Iraq. Saudi Arabia said the cutoff was made because Jordan owed $46 million, but Jordanian officials said Saudi Arabia's King Fahd had canceled most of that debt this year.

Thabetal al-Taher, Jordan's energy minister, said the supply contract gave Saudi Arabia the right to charge Jordan interest on overdue amounts, but not to cut off supplies.

"Jordan was depending on the Saudi pipeline," Mr. al-Taher said. "We are really going to suffer."

King Hussein's 30-minute address was broadcast live by Cable News Network from his palace and hinted at the king's discomfort with his estrangement from Washington. His comments appeared to be intended to garner sympathy as well as to give advice, although much of the advice ran contrary to U.S. policies.

He warned that the demand for Iraq's unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait could not be met and would eliminate any chance for a negotiated settlement. To avoid "an explosion," he said, the United States and its allies would have to withdraw their troops from the region "in the shortest possible period of time."

"We must avert an explosion in this highly inflammable area straddling the world's richest oil reserves that would cause untold death, destruction and misery, with disastrous repercussions far beyond this vital region and this period of human life," King Hussein said.

The king said Jordan had acted correctly but was paying a "terrible price." He said his government had adhered to U.N. sanctions against Iraq "despite devastating results to our national economy, which threaten with immediate, clear evidence the present and future of Jordan in every sphere of life."

"We still recognize the government of Kuwait, and the state of Kuwait," he said. "There is no difference on principle. There is no difference on what the solution should be."

But the king said that Iraq's claims to Kuwaiti territory had some basis and maintained that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, would have withdrawn his troops and agreed to negotiations if other nations had not imposed sanctions.

King Hussein also endorsed in part Iraq's offer to negotiate a settlement on the condition that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip be considered at the same time. He said many Arabs distrusted the United States because of what they thought was its separate standards toward Israel and Arab states.

While the United States had urged Arabs to accept a negotiated settlement with Israel, he said, it seemed "unwilling to even consider" a negotiated settlement with Iraq.

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