President Bush said today that Jordan's King Hussein, carrying a letter from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, is on his way to the United States and will meet with him Thursday.
King Hussein has staked out a role as Arab emissary to the Iraqi president and hopes to serve as a mediator between him and the United States. On Monday, the king traveled to Baghdad to meet with Hussein.
But at a White House news conference, Bush said he doesn't see any immediate chance for a diplomatic solution to the crisis that was touched off when Iraq invaded Kuwait earlier this month.
The President said he hopes that such a solution can be found after the U.N. sanctions against Iraq and Kuwait begin to squeeze the Iraqi economy. He also said the United States was acting legally in deciding to block ships bound for Iraq.
The Jordanian monarch "is carrying Saddam Hussein's views to President Bush," a senior Jordanian official said today in Amman.
The king, a longtime personal friend of Bush, will arrive in Washington on Wednesday and then fly Thursday to the President's vacation retreat in Kennebunkport, Me. Bush said the king called him Monday night and requested the meeting.
Details of the Saddam letter were not disclosed.
In the crazy-quilt pattern that has taken hold in the Arab world, the usually pro-Western Jordanian king has remained on the fence, declining to join the embargo approved last Monday by the U.N. Security Council.
Jordan provides a major lower land supply route to Baghdad. Washington has been disappointed that Amman has defended some of Iraq's actions in Kuwait.
Jordan has not recognized Baghdad's annexation of Kuwait but says the problem should be solved among Arabs without foreign military intervention.
The king has called Saddam Hussein a patriot, and observers in Jordan report trucks and tankers crossing the Iraq-Jordan border without apparent interruption.
And yet, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler read a statement to reporters today saying, "Our relations with Jordan are and have been excellent." She said Jordan "has indicated to us their intention to abide by the U.N.-imposed sanctions."
On the diplomatic front, meanwhile, ambassadors from the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China were called to the State Department today to consider ways to safeguard the growing naval armada in the Persian Gulf from Iraqi reprisal.
Two options under consideration, U.S. officials said, are assigning coordination of the ships' defense to a joint U.N. military command or putting them under the protection of the U.N. flag.
The meeting with Robert Kimmitt, undersecretary for political affairs, was designed "to review what role the U.N. military staff committee" could play in connection with the embargo, spokeswoman Tutwiler said.
The idea, which originated with the Soviet Union, has been under discussion in telephone conversations between Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze for several days, Tutwiler added.