King of Jordan reaffirms tilt toward Baghdad WAR IN THE GULF

January 20, 1991|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,Sun Staff Correspondent

AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan's King Hussein reaffirmed his nation's tilt toward Iraq yesterday at an evening news conference, saying that Iraqi missiles bound for Israel do not violate Jordanian airspace, although Israeli warplanes bound for Iraq would.

"As far as we are concerned, airspace is something we can reach with our means," the king explained. "We have neither the means to detect nor deter the missiles." So, he said, the Iraqi Scud missiles that have soared across Jordan the past two nights aren't a worry.

But Israeli soldiers or warplanes attempting to retaliate by passing through Jordan would be another matter, he said.

"We are a sovereign country, and anyone sending forces to Jordan would do so on Jordan's request," he said. "We are deployed in any direction for any possibility."

Jordan's precarious location, with Iraq to the east and Israel to the west, has made it a flash point that could broaden the gulf war to other Arab nations.

Though the Jordanian army of 100,000 is considered no match for the larger, better-armed Israeli forces, thousands of soldiers have been deployed along the Jordan River, just opposite the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank.

In addition, camouflaged artillery pieces and mobile launchers with anti-aircraft missiles now dot the black plains of ancient lava that stretch across the desert to Iraq.

But a bigger impulse to an expanded war, King Hussein said, is the way the U.S.-led alliance has brushed aside the plight of Palestinian refugees while vigorously battling Iraq.

President Bush has spurned attempts by Iraq to link the Palestinian issue to a possible withdrawal from Kuwait, and King Hussein called the refusal "rather naive and somewhat unrealistic."

As a result, he said, "The world is rushing into a disaster at such a great speed without taking many factors into consideration. . . . The Arab world may be headed toward a period of turbulence that it has never had before."

Jordan's population reflects that growing turbulence. Palestinians, making up half the population, regard Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a hero. Posters with his stern face can be seen in shop windows and on taxicabs and buses, and Islamic preachers glorify him from their mosques.

On Friday, Jordan's Parliament joined the rhetorical frenzy, declaring the United States to be "the Great Satan."

King Hussein, by contrast, treaded lightly when asked directly about the United States. He ducked the question by criticizing both sides in the war, saying both were to blame.

"Jordan's means are limited, and I do not believe that Iraq expects us to physically help them," he said. "We are busy trying to help ourselves."

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