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Jordanian king slams 'invasion' of Iraq
Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2003

April 3 2003, 4:07 AM

Jordan's King Abdullah II today described for the first time the US-British-Australian attacks on neighbouring Iraq as an "invasion" and said his country had persistently refused to open its airspace to the coalition.

Abdullah, in an interview with the official Petra news agency, also expressed his "pain and sadness" over civilian war casualties in Iraq, whom he described as "martyrs".

"Frankly speaking, we were asked to open our airspace to military aircraft but we steadfastly refused," the king told the director of Petra, who was asking him to comment on reports that coalition planes used Jordan to attack Iraq.

"Jordan is not and will never be a launchpad for strikes on brethren in Iraq and if our airspace was being used for that purpose we would not have allowed civil aviation to use it and would have closed it like other countries have," he said.

Jordanian airspace has remained open since the start of the war on Iraq on March 20.

The king also strongly denied press reports alleging that US troops could deploy through Jordan to attack Iraq after Turkey denied them passage, saying: "This was never proposed to us and we would never allow it".

And he likewise dismissed as "shameful" reports suggesting that Israeli troops were deployed in Jordan as part of the war effort on Iraq.

Twice in the interview Abdullah referred to the "invasion" of Iraq by the coalition forces, insisting on his opposition to the war and to any new leadership imposed by external forces on Baghdad.

"We have used all our contacts with influential countries across the world in order to avert this day in which we see brethren Iraq facing an invasion and all the pain it carries for the innocents," the king said.

"The Iraqi people have the right to chose their leadership and because we believe in democracy ... we cannot imagine that any people will agree to a leadership imposed on them from the outside, against their will," he said.

Abdullah also said he shared his people's anguish at seeing "on television screens the rise in the number of Iraqi civilian and innocent martyrs" killed in the war.

"We strongly denounce the killing of women and children ... and as a father I feel the pain of each Iraqi family, and each Iraqi child and father," he said.

"We are one with our people who reject and condemn the invasion," he said.

He also insisted that Jordan is determined on maintaining "strong historical and brotherly ties with the Iraqi people now and in the future", even after it expelled late last month three Iraqi diplomats accused of harming state security.

Diplomatic sources told AFP yesterday that the expelled diplomats had conspired to poison the water supply of several hundred US troops deployed in the kingdom.


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