The United States and Jordan on Wednesday, April 4, agreed to hold expert-level talks on US proposals to modify UN sanctions on Iraq, the State Department said.
"They agreed that there should be some expert discussions in the coming weeks," spokesman Richard Boucher said after a formal meeting and working lunch between Jordan's King Abdullah II and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Though Boucher had no details about when the talks might take place, he said they would cover precise ways in which sanctions could be eased on civilian goods while boosting those on military items and technology.
On a Middle East tour in February that included Jordan, Powell said he had received support for those proposals and despite last month's Arab League summit call for a lifting of all sanctions that Abdullah signed onto, Washington insists it still has support for the changes.
Among the modifications being suggested by the United States are ways to entice Iraq's neighbors, including Jordan, to cut down rampant illegal smuggling by offering incentives to strictly enforce embargoes on key items.
The proposals could include placing UN monitors just outside Iraqi borders to monitor trade and drawing up a list of oil companies officially allowed by the United Nations to buy Iraqi crude.
Jordan's support for these initiatives will be critical in both winning their approval from Arab states and the United Nations but also in enforcing them.
Abdullah and Powell also spent time discussing efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the peace table, Boucher said.
"The United States and Jordan both want to do all we can to help calm the situation, help the parties end the violence, re-establish normal lives for the people of the region, and get back on a path to peace," he said.
The monarch and the secretary were "looking at what we could each do to help make that happen," Boucher added.
Abdullah, who is to meet President George W. Bush next week, is the second moderate Arab leader to visit Washington this month following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who saw Bush and Powell on Monday.
Washington sees the support of both leaders, whose countries are the only Arab states to have full diplomatic relations with Israel, as essential in pressing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to take steps to end the more than six months of deadly violence that has engulfed the region.
In addition, Powell and Abdullah also discussed US-Jordanian ties and the importance of economic reform and a bilateral free trade agreement that was signed in October between Abdullah and then-US president Bill Clinton but is still awaiting ratification by Congress.
The pact — the first between the United States and an Arab country — requires both countries to enforce their respective labor and environmental laws as well as stimulate trade and investment.
It eliminates barriers to trade in goods and services between the two countries over 10 years and Amman has high hopes it will bolster Jordan's ailing economy. — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)