Offer of Bush Trip Called Off: Reporter : Invited and Then Bumped, Jerusalem Post Writer Says

Associated Press

The Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post says he was offered an exclusive interview with George Bush as an enticement to accompany the vice president to the Middle East.

But after accepting the offer, he was bumped from the trip at the last minute by Bush aides expressing worry about possible objections from Jordanian officials.

Wolf Blitzer said today that he had been assured by the Jordanian ambassador to the United States that there would be no problem if he accompanied Bush to Amman, where the vice president is scheduled to meet with King Hussein.

But Blitzer quoted a Bush aide as saying, "The ambassador seems to be at odds with people in Amman."

"Based on my conversations with the Jordanians I was convinced they were actually looking forward to me coming so that they would have a chance to convey their message directly to the Israeli public," Blitzer said.

Although he has a high-profile job for an Israeli newspaper, Blitzer is a native of Buffalo, N.Y., and is not an Israeli citizen.

Quotes Jordan Envoy

The Bush party left for the Middle East on July 25. Blitzer said Jordanian Ambassador Mohammed Kamal told him that day that he had talked to the foreign minister and had been told that Blitzer would be welcome--although he was asked to avoid publicly identifying himself as correspondent for the Jerusalem Post.

In an article published in the Israeli newspaper, Blitzer said he asked the ambassador, "Are you sure I won't have any problems?"

He quoted Kamal as saying, "Just the opposite, we are planning special treatment for you." Blitzer said the ambassador--who signed his visa for the trip--gave him the names of senior officials and other Jordanians who would be willing to talk to him.

Later that day, Bush press aide Steven Hart called him, Blitzer said.

"He said they had heard from their advance people in Amman that some Jordanian press official there said that I would not be welcome," he said. "I said, 'Why don't you check it with the ambassador?' and they refused to do that."

The Bush staffers involved in the episode were traveling with the vice president in the Middle East and could not be contacted immediately for comment.

Indonesian Incident

Blitzer said he felt that the Bush aides were concerned about the possibility of a repetition of the incident when President Reagan visited Indonesia last April and two Australian reporters were taken off the White House press plane and expelled from the country.

The Indonesian government had barred Australian journalists from the country after a Sydney newspaper published an article critical of President Suharto.

Blitzer said Hart told him that the incident with the Australians "was the only story that came out of Bali. We don't want to have the vice president upstaged like that in Jordan."

The correspondent said it was an invitation from the Bush staff that originally prompted him to sign up for the Middle East trip.

"It was their idea, it wasn't mine," he said. "They wanted to score some points in the American Jewish community and they thought it would be useful to have me along on the trip to write about it in the Jerusalem Post. They called me about a month ago."

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