Jordan breaks alliance with Iraq


PARIS -- King Hussein of Jordan, Iraq's closest Arab ally for more than a decade, has openly broken with Baghdad.

Charging the Iraqi government with "practices" that had deeply harmed Jordanian interests, the king told senior editors of the Jordanian press that he now opposed the continued leadership of Iraq by President Saddam Hussein or his Baath Party.

"I cannot continue to support such policy or such a leadership," the king said.

King Hussein's remarks, made in a private meeting with the editors Saturday and reported in Arab newspapers this week, appeared to represent a final rupture between the two countries. They were allies for more than a decade, particularly during the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran and the Persian Gulf war.

The remarks also appeared to be another signal to the United States -- where the king is heading June 12 for medical checkups and a meeting with President Clinton -- and to the gulf Arabs, that Jordan has taken a clear distance from Iraq.

Signs of discord between Iraq and Jordan first came to light in October when the king called for the installation of a "pluralistic" government in Iraq that could bring about a national reconciliation.

Over the last few months, Jordan's criticism of Iraq sharpened, with denunciations of its harsh repression of dissidents, particularly Shiite Iraqis in the south, and its continued defiance of the West over settling borders with Kuwait and over disarmament.

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