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[casi] Jordan insists it will not help US attacks on Iraq

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Jordan insists it will not help US attacks on Iraq

AMMAN (AFP) - Authorities in Jordan are strongly denying a stream of
foreign press reports suggesting the kingdom could be used as a launch-pad
for US attacks on Iraq.

"Everything that has been written on this subject is the fruit of pure
imagination," Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher told AFP Thursday.

"These reports are without any foundations and our denials are 200 percent
true," Moasher said.

The reports have appeared in heavyweight newspapers like the New York Times
and the London Times -- which quoted Western diplomats Thursday as saying
Amman had consented to a limited US presence -- as well as the Lebanese

They have suggested that forward bases for US troops have been set up in
Jordan, in preparation for an invasion.

"It is not unusual for American troops to come to Jordan as part of
exchange programmes agreed upon with the United States for the dispatch of
experts," Moasher replied Thursday.

"They come and go. It is part of routine military contacts between our
countries," he added.

"Jordan carries out regularly joint military exercises with the United
States. It does the same with other countries like France and Britain.

"But I categorically deny that these exercises, or that the presence of US
troops (in Jordan) is related closely or distantly to Iraq," Moasher said.

Jordan's King Abdullah II has repeatedly said that any US military action
against Iraq before a solution to the Middle East crisis is found would
have "devastating" repercussions for the region and harm US interests.

"The United States has not asked Jordan to use its territory or its air
space to strike Iraq," Moasher said on Thursday.

Last week the foreign minister summoned Iraqi ambassador Sabah Yassin to
reaffirm "Jordan's rejection of the use of force against Baghdad and its
concern to preserve the territorial integrity, security and stability" of

Moasher even invited the ambassador to visit Jordanian military bases to
see for himself that no US troops are on the ground.

A Western diplomat based in Amman confirmed to AFP that the barrage of
press reports suggesting that Jordan was being dragged into an eventual US
offensive on Iraq were incorrect.

"Yes, the United States regularly conducts joint military exercises with
the Jordanians, yes, American troops come (here) often, but for different
reasons that have nothing to do with Iraq," he said.

"Everything that has been written on this issue does not correspond to
reality," the diplomat said.

He said Jordan cannot afford to be drawn into any action against its

"A large part of the Jordanian population is very pro-Iraq and at the same
time is concerned by the gravity of the situation in the Palestinian
territories," he said.

"An attack on Iraq will fuel antagonism towards the United States and
against any Arab regime that helps them in this task," the diplomat added.

He warned that the US would be putting Jordan, a key Arab ally, into a
high-risk situation which he said it can little afford.

"The United States has no interest in putting Jordan in a mission
impossible situation. It can use other countries who face the risk of
internal destabilisation less," he added.

During the 1991 US-led Gulf war to end Iraqi occupation of Iraq, Jordan,
then ruled by Abdullah's father the late King Hussein, declined to join the
coalition against Baghdad, its main trade partner and oil supplier.

Plagued by an ailing economy, Jordan receives 150 million dollars in annual
economic aid from Washington and US President George W. Bush asked Congress
in March to allocate an addition 100 million dollars.

Amman is also expected to obtain 75 million dollars in US military aid this

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