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Hussein Endorses Bush’s Middle East Peace Efforts

From Reuters

Jordan’s King Hussein today endorsed President Bush’s efforts to revive the Middle East peace process but withheld specific comment on Israel’s plan for elections in the occupied territories, a major feature of the U.S. approach.

Winding up an hourlong meeting at the White House, Hussein said Bush was “in a unique position” to help end the Arab-Israeli conflict, adding: “I can assure you that I fully support you in all your efforts in this regard.”

Hussein pointedly did not mention Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s proposal for polls to choose a Palestinian delegation to negotiate with the Jewish state an interim period of limited self-rule.

A senior U.S. official who briefed reporters after the visit said Hussein privately expressed some concerns about the election proposal but did not rule out polls.

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U.S. officials had indicated ahead of the visit--the third by a Middle East leader this month--that they had modest expectations for the meeting and wanted at a minimum that Hussein would keep an open mind about the election proposal.

In departure remarks with Hussein at his side, Bush said he reiterated to the king “my belief that properly designed and mutually acceptable elections could, as an initial step, contribute to a political process leading to an environment for negotiations on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza.”

“The time has come to encourage fresh thinking, to avoid sterile debate and to focus on the difficult but critical work of structuring a serious negotiating process,” Bush said.

He added: “His majesty has committed Jordan to this task.”

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