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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gates Describes ‘Excellent Visit’ to Jordan

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

AMMAN, Jordan, April 17, 2007 – Jordan’s King Abdallah today pledged his country’s continued support to Iraq’s fledgling democracy, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

In what he called a “really excellent visit,” Gates today had wide-ranging discussions with King Abdallah and with Gen. Khaled Jamil al-Sarayrah, the country’s defense chairman.

“His Majesty affirmed Jordan’s support for (Iraqi) Prime Minister (Nouri al-) Maliki, and we talked about efforts that others could take to contribute to the reconciliation process in Iraq itself,” the secretary said following a meeting with the king.

Jordan is a long-time U.S. ally in the Middle East. “This is a relationship that goes back a long way,” Gates said, noting that the first time he visited Jordan was 20 years ago at the invitation of Abdallah’s father, King Hussein, who died in 1999.

The secretary pointed out that the U.S. and Jordanian armed forces have strong military-to-military ties. “There are frequent exchanges, exercises and visits between the military officers of both sides,” Gates said.

Some 370 Jordanian troops are manning a field hospital in Afghanistan, and another 220-plus Jordanian servicemembers are performing a similar mission in Iraq. In addition, Jordan has trained 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi national policemen at the Joint International Police Training Center in Jordan.

“I thanked both His Majesty and the chairman for all of the things Jordan has done to help us, a great deal of training of Iraqi security forces, both police and army,” Gates said.

Other topics discussed included Syria and its involvement in the Mid-East peace process and Iran. Gates said he reaffirmed President Bush’s commitment to the Middle East peace process.

He added that he and Abdallah “agreed that diplomatic and economic pressures were the most profitable way to try and get the Iranians to change their behavior.”

After leaving Jordan, Gates is scheduled to visit Egypt and Israel. As he travels through the Middle East, Gates is encouraging regional leaders to bring Maliki and his unity government more fully into the political landscape of the region, a senior official said as Gates was en route to the region.

“I think that there is not yet confidence in the region that Iraq’s government represents all Iraqis,” Gates said today. “My own view is that (the Iraqi government is) working hard in that direction. … And I think the more encouragement the neighbors can provide, the more support for the Iraqi government and with it encouragement of a broad-based government approach to governance, I think would be a positive contribution.”

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