Powell, Jordanian FM discuss Iraq sanctions, trade
US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Jordanian counterpart met in Washington Tuesday for talks centering on the Middle East peace process, sanctions on Iraq and bilateral trade, the State Department said.
Spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell and Abdel Ilah Al-Khatib discussed those issues and got acquainted during a session that lasted just over 30 minutes at the State Department.
"It was a very positive initial meeting between the two ministers," Boucher said. Khatib is the first Arab foreign minister to have met Powell face-to-face since he took the helm of US diplomacy last week.
”They talked about the excellent bilateral relationships, the importance of moving forward on free trade agreements in both of our parliaments," Boucher said, referring to pacts signed last year but not yet ratified.
"They talked about current state of the peace process and the economic situation in Jordan and they talked about Iraq and the sanctions," he said.
Boucher declined to discuss details of the conversation, but the new US administration of President George W. Bush is keen to bolster international sanctions now imposed on Iraq and is seeking support for doing so.
As one of Iraq's neighbors, Jordan is key to enforcing many of the existing sanctions, although support there for a UN air embargo is on the wane.
Jordan has sent several flights into Iraq to the muted consternation of the United States. Jordan has also played a critical role in the now stalled again Middle East peace talks, signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Washington has looked to Amman to push Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat towards a similar deal.
The free trade agreement, signed in Washington in October and witnessed by former US president Bill Clinton and Jordan's King Abdullah, was a first in US commercial history to contain protections for workers' rights and the environment.
The pact will eliminate all tariffs on two-way trade in goods and services over 10 years but must still be ratified by the Jordanian parliament and the US Congress. — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)