Iraqi leader visits Jordan to mend ties

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has held talks in neighbouring Jordan, his first state visit abroad, to improve ties strained by a February bombing in Iraq erroneously blamed on a Jordanian.

    Talabani's trip to Jordan is his first state visit abroad

    Talabani emerged on Saturday from a 25-minute meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II to declare that relations were "excellent and are getting better" before he was whisked away by security officials escorting him.


    Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran told reporters that economic relations figured high in the talks at an Amman hilltop palace. He did not elaborate and rushed to a separate meeting with Talabani at the Prime Ministry.


    Iraq was Jordan's largest trade partner and only oil supplier before the US-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003.


    The annual two-way trade exchange was estimated at $700 million, which was made up of Jordanian exports of food, medicine and humanitarian supplies to its eastern neighbour in return for oil.


    It was not immediately known whether Talabani will meet Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who was scheduled to arrive in Jordan later on Saturday from visits to Egypt and Syria.


    The Iraqi president received a red-carpet welcome and a 21-gun salute on arrival at an Amman air base for his two-day visit. King Abdullah, Queen Rania and top government officials met Talabani and his wife, Heh Roh.




    Talabani was accompanied by his country's ambassador, Ata Abdul-Wahab, who had been recalled following a diplomatic spat that broke out after the 28 February bombing in Hilla, south of Baghdad that killed 125 people and was wrongly blamed on a Jordanian.


    Iraqis protested that Jordan has
    done little to stop growing unrest

    Protests erupted in Iraq accusing Jordan of not doing enough to stop fighters infiltrating into the war-ravaged country.


    The Jordanian government denied involvement, but both countries recalled their envoys. Jordan has already returned its charge d'affaires to Baghdad.


    Security cooperation was also expected to top Talabani's agenda during his visit, his first outside Iraq since being elected president in April.


    It was not immediately known whether he discussed that with Abdullah, who has often urged the world community to assist in the restoration of Iraq's security and stability.


    Jordan is hosting training for Iraqi police and army cadets under a two-year programme, sponsored by the United States, to improve Iraq's security capacity. So far, nearly half of the 32,000 Iraqi recruits have graduated.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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