First Published: 2003-09-02

President Khatami welcomes King Abdullah on first visit to Iran

Jordan eager to woo Iranian tourists to visit tombs of many of companions of Prophet Mohammed.


Middle East Online

By Farhad Pouladi TEHRAN

Important step in relations

King Abdullah II began the first visit to Iran by a Jordanian monarch in 25 years here Tuesday in what both countries consider an "important" step in improving bilateral relations.

President Mohammad Khatami welcomed the king to Tehran along with Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb and his minister of administrative development, Mohammad Halayka.

But neither leader made any statement during a photo-call at the Sadabad Palace in the north-east of the capital after a review of the Iranian guard of honour in the palace gardens.

Their meeting was only the second since they held talks on the fringes of the millennium summit in New York in September 2000.

They were expected to discuss the situation in post-war Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and bilateral issues, officials said.

Jordanian Information Minister Nabil Sharif earlier said the visit, which has been planned for a long time, "is important because it comes at a crucial time for the region".

"All Muslim countries need to coordinate their efforts and understand each other and try to come up with ways to look into the challenges facing the region," said Sharif.

"There are a lot of things that can be discussed and need to be discussed to promote economic cooperation and we expect that there will be some agreements to promote trade and tourism between two countries," Sharif said.

Jordan is particularly eager to woo Iranian tourists to the kingdom, which boasts many archeological sites, including the tombs of many of the companions of the Prophet Mohammed.

The two-day visit is seen in Amman and Tehran as an "important" step in improving relations between the two countries, which were restored in 1991 after a 10-year break, during which Iran criticised Abdullah's father, the late King Hussein, for supporting Baghdad in the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iraq war.

Although ties between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Islamic Republic of Iran improved dramatically after Abdullah succeeded his father to the throne in February 1999, a diplomatic spat last year fueled tensions between them.

"We're completely over it. It is completely behind us now," a Jordanian foreign ministry source said about the diplomatic tiff that involved the recall of Jordan's ambassador in 2002.

At the time, Iranian newspapers charged that Ambassador Bassam Amush had angered the Iranian authorities by accusing Tehran of "interfering" in Jordan's "security issues".

Jordan, which has yet to replace Amush, who has retired, has consistently played down the incident and Iranian officials also appeared eager to push it under the rug.

"We hope that this visit will be a good beginning for the Jordanian and Iranian people and for Arab-Iranian relations and the region," Iran's ambassador to Jordan, Nasratallah Tajik, told Al Dustour newspaper last week.

His deputy, Mohammad Fafaee, meanwhile said the "visit is important in itself because it is the first time in about 25 years that a king from Jordan visits Iraq".

Fafaee also agreed that the visit will reflect the growing concern over the situations in post-war Iraq and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

"The countries in the region have realised that it is good to have a channel of communication and a dialogue to plan for cooperation because everybody in this part of world have been a target of some sort of bombing and attack," Fafaee said.

"We are living in a very difficult situation ... which has led to the point that many countries in the region have become more concerned," he said.


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