WASHINGTON (Aug. 14)
President Bush promised Tuesday that the United States would help alleviate any economic difficulties suffered by Jordan if it abides by the international trade embargo on Iraq.
“Clearly we have always been a friend of Jordan,” Bush said at a White House news conference late in the afternoon. “We have helped them in the past; we will help them in the future if they fulfill their obligation,” he said.
Bush is scheduled to meet with King Hussein of Jordan on Thursday, at his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The president, who interrupted his vacation Tuesday to return to Washington for budget talks and a briefing on the Middle East situation, said no agenda has been set for the Hussein meeting.
The king called and said, “I would like to come over and talk about the whole situation,” Bush reported.
Bush will likely question Hussein about reports that food supplies and other materials are reaching Iraq by way of the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Bush said he would order a blockade of Aqaba “if it’s a hole through which commerce flows (to Iraq) in an otherwise tight net.”
The president said he knew nothing of reports that the king was bringing him a letter from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with whom the Jordanian monarch met Monday.
But Bush again rejected the Iraqi leader’s proposal Sunday that he would consider withdrawing Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which they invaded Aug. 2, if Israel withdrew from all “occupied areas” and Syrian troops pulled out of Lebanon.
The Iraqi proposal brought in “extraneous problems and did not address itself to the fundamental problem, which is that they took over Kuwait and that they got to get out of Kuwait” and restore its legitimate government, Bush said.
He called the Iraqi offer “a replay of an old position.”
IRAQI EFFORT TO LURE ISRAEL
The president said he hoped there would be a diplomatic solution to the crisis once the economic sanctions, which are “just beginning to bite,” took hold.
But Saddam Hussein’s proposals are not even a basis for negotiations, Bush said.
Washington sees the Iraqi proposals as part of Baghdad’s effort to draw Israel into the international force against Iraq, in order to turn the Arab countries now supporting the United States against the sanctions being taken.
The Bush administration has advised Israel to keep a low profile in the situation and does not look for any Israeli support in a possible blockade of Aqaba, even though it is just across the Gulf of Aqaba from the Israeli city of Eilat.
“We don’t have any plans for any Israeli military involvement,” a State Department official said. “It just wouldn’t help the situation.”
Earlier, without mentioning any specific country, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said the United States would do something to “alleviate come of the pain that (the blockade) is going to cause some of these countries” that are making “enormous sacrifices” in the sanctions against Iraq.
One country that will be hit hardest is Turkey, which borders Iraq and is losing millions economically by joining in the sanctions.
Bush indicated Tuesday that other unnamed countries will “make up the shortfall” in oil production that is being lost by the boycott of oil from Iraq and Kuwait.
The president also said he could give no time limit on how long U.S. troops would be in Saudi Arabia. “We are going to be there long enough to get the job done,” he said.