Jordan’s Abdullah Moves from Amman to Aqaba

Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew to Cairo Sunday, April 21 to confer with President Hosny Mubarak of Egypt on the current Middle East crisis and the rising ferment in their countries. The two leaders are in close coordination on the problem of Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority.
On Saturday, April 20, debkafile first revealed the plan under discussion in Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo and Amman to shift Arafat to Gaza and restrict his rule to the Gaza Strip under close Egyptian supervision, leaving the West Bank under local Palestinian government and shared Jordanian and Israeli guardianship.
Israeli transport minister Ephraim Sneh revealed to the London Sunday Telegraph a plan to divide the West Bank in two – half retained by Israel and half under Palestinian rule, which he described as conceived by prime minister Ariel Sharon without Labor endorsement. Sneh omitted to mention that this proposal was one of many on the White House’s drawing board, as part of a larger design for redefining Middle East borders, which secretary of state Colin Powell laid before Egyptian and Jordanian leaders during his recent tour of the region.
This still evolving master plan prompted Sharon’s vehement rebuff Sunday, April 21, of the demand coming from Labor party minister Raanan Cohen to get started on the evacuation of isolated West Bank settlements. Sharon said only half jokingly: “Evacuations of settlements do not figure on any agenda before October 2003 when I prepare to start my next term of office!”
Labor ministers present their pressure to begin uprooting settlements as necessary for easing the burden weighing on the reservists detailed to their security. In actual fact, it is a ruse to torpedo the US-Egyptian-Jordanian-Israeli program for rooting out Arafat, his regime and his influence from the towns of the West bank.
Sharon cited October 2003 – not only because of Israel’s election timetable, but because he calculates that by then the American campaign against Iraq and its fallout will be over and done with. Then will be time enough to talk about the borders of the West Bank – both in the light of the security and political situation in Israel and the Palestinian entity and depending on how Jordan comes out of the conflict.
With the US-Iraq showdown still ahead, most of debkafile‘s Middle East sources agree that Jordan is liable to suffer greater damage than any other nation in the region in consequence of the US-Iraqi war. Already, the HashemiteKingdom is gathering itself for the coming emergency, not waiting for the American action against Baghdad to begin.
Although no state of emergency has been formally declared, debkafile‘s Middle East sources reveal thatthe capital, Amman, and Jordan’s other cities have all been placed under the control of the Jordanian armed forces and anti-aircraft positions arrayed at strategic points. Government offices, security and aid services, hospitals, water, electric and fuel utilities and economic institutions, including banks, have gone over to an emergency footing. In another sign of the times, the bulk of the kingdom’s reserves have been transferred to banks in Europe.
Our sources added that the king and his family have left Amman and established residence in the royal summer villa in Red Sea resort of Aqaba, guarded by Counter-Terrorism Battalion 71 (CTB-71), a Jordanian elite contingent made up the Rangers, paratroops and members of the Royal Guard. At the first sign of a tangible threat, all is prepared to whisk the king and his family out of harm’s way. They will be flown to a US airbase at Sharm el-Sheikh on the southern edge of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as the Egyptian president’s guest.
Most of the families of Jordan’s ruling elite have left the capital on the pretext of starting their summer vacation.

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