Jordan and Israel repair Mossad row

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The Independent Online
ISRAEL and Jordan are mending fences six months after Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, infuriated King Hussein by trying to kill an official of a militant Islamic organisation in the streets of Amman, the Jordanian capital.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli infrastructure minister, had talks about greater co-operation with King Hussein in Jordan over the weekend and Crown Prince Hassan will see Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, in Israel today. After his meeting General Sharon said: "The problem has gone."

Jordan feels squeezed between a resurgent Iraq to the east and, to the west, Mr Netanyahu, who does not want to implement the Oslo accords with the Palestinians. It has gained few benefits from the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1994. But King Hussein also broke publicly with Iraq in 1995 when he received General Hussein Kamel, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, who fled to Amman.

The largest of the joint projects discussed was the $5bn "Red-Dead Canal" through the desert from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The 120 mile-long canal would harness hydro-electric power to desalinate water, helping to prevent any conflict over scarce water supplies and save the Dead Sea from gradual evaporation at current rates of inflow.

Relations between Jordan and Israel deteriorated after the election of Mr Netanyahu in 1996. King Hussein expressed deep distrust for the Israeli premier and has formed a better personal understanding with General Sharon.

Relations plummeted when Mossad tried to kill Khalid Meshal, a member the Islamic militant organisation, with poison gas last September. The Mossad agents were captured and exchanged for the jailed Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

In the aftermath of the affair, King Hussein reportedly insisted that Israel sack Danny Yatom, the head of Mossad, before ties could improve. He was replaced last week by Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad deputy chief who was involved with the negotiation of a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994.

Egypt, the only other Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, continues to have frosty relations with Mr Netanyahu.

In an interview, President Hosni Mubarak accuses him of turning the world upside down and failing to keep his promises on Middle East peace. He told the Israeli daily Maariv: "I have met with him several times and up until today all I got from him were promises. Nothing was carried out."

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