Hassan soft-pedals gains made in meeting with Peres

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Jordan's crown prince said yesterday that lifting the Arab economic boycott against Israel "may well be economic suicide" for his country.

A day after his unprecedented public meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the White House, Prince Hassan applied the brakes to rapid progress toward peace with Israel.


"We can't accept overnight that the region is going to be pacified . . . lobotomized," he said.

"The fact is that people out there are suffering and want tangible change," he said.


Prince Hassan, brother of King Hussein, said Jordan would work to produce tangible gains in direct negotiations with Israel, but he said that signing of a formal peace would depend on the

political climate.

Before this can improve, he said, far more attention must be paid to improving the lives of people on the ground and offering hope for hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of them in Jordan.

He sounded a particularly cautious note on economic cooperation, even though he agreed Friday to formation of both a joint economic committee with Israel and a working group that would include the United States.

He said Jordan would want something in return even for lifting the secondary boycott of companies that do business with Israel and noted that the Jewish state imposed a ceiling on the flow of goods from Jordan into the West Bank. The prince voiced fear of U.S. companies, in combination with Israel, "dumping" their products in the Middle East at the expense of Arab producers.

For all his downbeat talk, however, the prince said that the "mold has been broken" in the Middle East and the alternative of a new confrontation with Israel would be "devastating." Alluding to Jordan's relations in the Arab world, he voiced hope that "pictures of Arabs talking to Israelis might inspire Arabs [to talk] to each other."