Jordan's king, citing Iraqi suffering, suggests it's time to end Hussein's regime

November 08, 1992|By New York Times News Service

AMMAN, Jordan -- King Hussein of Jordan said yesterday tha Iraq was suffering badly under sanctions imposed by the United Nations and suggested it was time for Iraqis to end the government of President Saddam Hussein and push for a democratic, pluralistic society.

Although the king did not specifically call for Iraqis to overthrow Mr. Hussein, he provided a bleak description of conditions in Iraq and an unusually caustic assessment of the man he long viewed as his friend and ally and actively supported during the Persian Gulf war and in its aftermath. The king did not directly refer to Mr. Hussein by name.

"I think that the situation cannot last for very long in any event, and I think that there is every need for the Iraqi people themselves to put an end to it," the king said, speaking at his palace office in the capital.

He added that there was also a need "for all of us to see what can be done to see Iraq recover its territorial integrity and the unity of its people under conditions of freedom of choice and for them to be able to move ahead."

The king's remarks were a significant departure from his silence in recent months as the United States and other Western nations have stepped up pressure on Iraq, tightening economic sanctions, intensifying inspection missions and barring Iraqi 0` aircraft from specific zones in northern and southern Iraq.

The remarks by the king could be a psychological blow to Mr. Hussein because Jordan is the last neighbor with which Iraq has a relationship. In the past year, it has become clear to Jordanian decision makers that Iraq's strategic value as a major commercial outlet and a significant military power has evaporated under the weight of sanctions and military defeat.

Furthermore, senior Jordanian officials, eager to produce an Arab reconciliation that would benefit Jordan, appreciate now that key Arab countries like Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia would not agree to include Mr. Hussein's government in a reconciled Arab world.

Some in the West maintain that the Iraqi president has been able to circumvent the U.N. sanctions and keep the country going, but the king's remarks seemed to give an opposite view.

During the Persian Gulf war, the king was widely criticized in the West and by some Arab leaders for his sympathy toward Iraq.

King Hussein said he felt enormous sympathy for Iraqis because of their country's deteriorating situation.

Speaking of his one-time Iraqi allies, he added, "Some people may say I have no right to speak in this tone, but this is something I have felt very, very strongly, and I haven't hidden it from the Iraqi people."

King Hussein said that he was speaking out because "one cannot look at the suffering of people, at the damage to an upcoming generation in terms of all their needs and the continuous deterioration of that country to the point where it has been turned gradually into a preindustrial state."

The king's remarks were significant because of the widespread sentiment in Jordan that Iraq is putting up a valiant resistance to the accumulating hardships and that it can resist these pressures indefinitely.

Because of his friendship with the Iraqi leaders and the extensive network of ties between Jordanian and Iraqi business establishments, King Hussein's comments are likely to be taken as an important new assessment of a situation that is difficult for outsiders to evaluate.

The king emphasized that his vision of a future Iraq was one of a society that differed radically from the current one-party rule of // Mr. Hussein.

"What do we wish for Iraq? What we have always wished, a national reconciliation, pluralism, democracy, respect for human rights and then for the Iraqis to harness the tremendous assets that they have toward building a country that is stable and that has a place under the sun as it did in the past."

These comments, coming from one of the few Arab leaders to have instituted tentative measures of democratization over the last three years, are likely to be seen in the Arab world as a challenge to other totalitarian regimes as well.

King Hussein looked fit and relaxed in what was his first interview after his report to the nation Thursday that he had undergone treatment for cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in September and that, although he had been cured, he would need further checkups.

The king's left ureter, a duct that carries urine from a kidney to the bladder, was found to be cancerous, and it and a kidney were removed. He said he had recovered.

"My health is fine, and they are thrilled that my progress since the surgery has been excellent," he said of his doctors.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.