US to lift naval blockade of Aqaba

THE United States has agreed to lift the naval blockade of Aqaba, imposed to enforce sanctions against Iraq, after appeals from King Hussein that it was harming Jordan's economy. Agreement was announced after talks between the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, and the Jordanian monarch at the king's residence at Windsor Great Park, Berkshire. Mr Christopher said ships' cargoes would be subject to onshore inspections in future; this would be done by Lloyd's Register of London.

For all Mr Christopher's assertion that the new system sould 'sustain and enhance sanctions against Iraq' he has in effect gone along with King Hussein's suggestion. The King, while demonstrating that Jordan is complying with UN sanctions, will not have to explain away the humiliating presence of US troops on Jordanian soil, merely inspectors from what Mr Christopher described as a non-profit making, independent organisation.

In return, King Hussein pledged Jordan would resume a full role in the search for a comprehensive Middle East peace. On 28 March he said Jordan would not resume full participation in peace talks until the Aqaba issue was resolved.

Jordan has always felt hard done by over the blockade on Aqaba. 'Jordan was treated in a way different from other (states)' the King said yesterday. 'I made it very, very clear that we are adhering to UN Security Council resolutions. But we are very, very deeply concerned at the suffering of the Iraqi people.'

Since Iraq's only port, Basra, was closed by hostilities at the start of the Iraq-Iran war 14 years ago, it has relied on supplies being shipped to Aqaba and transported through Jordan. After imposition of UN sanctions in August 1990, the Multinational Interception Force has stopped, searched and often turned away shipping destined for the port. Many ships were suspected of sanctions-busting.

A US official who briefed reporters after the meeting yesterday said the 12-nation naval force had turned away 460 ships - about one in 10 - but only six because it was suspected they were carrying contraband cargo for Iraq. The rest had papers out of order.

Jordan said it was losing hundreds of millions of pounds a year because of the interceptions and shipping agents complained they were paying huge insurance rates. Mr Christopher said some 'fine tuning' was needed to put the arrangements into effect. This he expected 'in the very near future'.

Mr Christopher is going on to Geneva and then to Riyadh for a meeting with Arab allies from the Gulf War with Iraq. He is then due to travel to Egypt, Israel and Syria. His Middle East tour was to have taken place two weeks ago, so that he would have been in the region on the date - 13 April - set by the PLO-Israel accords for the implementation of Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area. He had been hoping to bask in the reflected glory of this achievement, even though it owed nothing to US diplomacy. Agreement, however, has still not been reached.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, has been holding talks in Moscow on the first visit there by an Israeli prime minister. Although the Soviet Union had been the first country to recognise the state of Israel after it declared independence in 1948, Moscow has always been an unequal partner in the search for peace.

Russia is formally a co-sponsor of the current Middle East peace talks but plays second fiddle to the US.

GAZA CITY - Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 12 Palestinians yesterday during skirmishes in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said, AFP reports. Eight were hit in Jabaliya camp when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators throwing stones at them.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why