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Press Room
Interviews
Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

By: Tim Russert

For: NBC - Meet the Press
13 November 2005



NBC: But first, this was the scene in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday, after suicide bombers triggered bombs inside three hotels, killing 57 and injuring 96. Here with us this morning is King Abdullah of Jordan. King Abdullah, can you tell us whether anyone has been apprehended or arrested because of these bombings?

King Abdullah: Yes, good morning, Tim. Hours ago, the security services managed to apprehend the fourth suicide bomber, the female bomber that was identified by the Zarqawi group. She went in with her husband into the Radisson SAS. We believe that her suicide belt, her device, did not work. She left the hotel, and she's in custody as we speak.

NBC: Is she Iraqi?

King Abdullah: She is Iraqi, yes. All of the four bombers were Iraqi.

NBC: Was she apprehended in downtown Amman, or whereabouts?

King Abdullah: She was apprehended near the city. I can't go into the details now because we are following other leads. We wanted to know, obviously, if this leads us to other people that were behind the crime.

NBC: As you well know, this appeared on the web site of Al Qaeda in Iraq shortly after the bombing, "After studying and studying the targets, the places of execution were chosen to be some hotels which the tyrant of Jordan has turned into a backyard for the enemies of Islam, such as the Jews and the crusaders." And as you well know, King Abdullah, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq is this man: Abu Musab Zarqawi. Is he now public enemy number one in Jordan?

King Abdullah: I believe with Jordanians he is, but I would like to point out that those who know Jordan, the hotels, especially the Days Inn is a favourite place for Jordanians and Iraqis. These suicide bombers actually went and aimed at Jordanian targets. The Radisson Hotel was a Jordanian wedding with Jordanians and Palestinians where innocent people were killed.

So, this has nothing to do with the West. This targeted Jordanian citizens, innocent men, women and children.

NBC: Many have commented on the tightrope that you have to walk as trying to rule your country and yet still be understanding of the attitudes of your people. The Pew Research Foundation has been doing some surveys of the Middle East. Back in July of 2005, this is what they found, and I will read it to you and to our viewers: "The polling finds that most majority Muslim countries surveyed support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence in defence of Islam has declined significantly. In Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, 15 per cent or fewer now say actions are justifiable. In Pakistan, only one in four now take that view. 25 per cent dropped from 41 per cent in March of 2004. A notable exception to this trend is Jordan, where a majority, 57 per cent, now says suicide bombings and other violent actions are justifiable in defence of Islam." And that's gone up from 2002. Are you out of sync with your people?

King Abdullah: Not at all. Again, I do question the poll because there are many other polls that show completely the opposite. The Zogby Poll that was taken at the same time showed 80 per cent of Jordan was against violence, against suicide bombing, against terrorist acts perpetrated against innocent civilians.

NBC: But it is interesting, Your Highness, when you read these numbers, for example, Islamic extremism a threat to your country? 87 per cent of Jordanians say no, it's not. And when asked whether or not Osama Bin Laden would do the right thing as a world leader, it's now up to 60 per cent of Jordanians think that Osama Bin Laden would do the right thing. Compare that to their attitudes towards the United States, 80 per cent of Jordanians say that they have an unfavourable attitude towards the United States. How big a problem

King Abdullah: Well, Tim, I mean I can show you many other polls that were done in the west that say completely the opposite figures. And if you take a look at the Jordanian streets where the majority you know of the country poured out to denounce what Zarqawi and Al Qaeda did calling for Zarqawi to be called to justice, for him to burn in hell, you need to see our streets in order to understand it depends on what point you're looking at, but I would not go with the poll that you just mentioned.

NBC: When you were last on the programme in May of 2002, I asked you about the impending Iraq war which began 10 months after your appearance, and this is what you said. "War in Iraq at this stage would bring tremendous instability in the area and one that I don't think the Arab world could handle." Do you believe the Iraq war has brought instability to the region?

King Abdullah: Well, we are suffering from the effects, but we are all hoping, I think, everybody in the world, that at the end of the day, Iraq will be part of the international community. Iraq has tremendous historical ancient impact in our part of the world. It is the cradle of civilisation as far as many of us are concerned. So, Iraq needs to succeed, needs to be part of the international community if the Middle East is going to be able to move forward.

NBC: Was the war a mistake?

King Abdullah: Well, what's happened has happened. What we are looking to is the future now. The challenge is for the Iraqi people with the election coming at the end of the year. We hope the overwhelming majority of moderate Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds go to the polls, have a strong showing in the polls, so at the end of the day the government, the future government of Iraq is one that reflects the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and that is the building block that I think will take us to the future.

NBC: As you know, Ahmed Chalabi has become the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. He's has been in the Washington in the last few days, meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He was convicted in absentia for bank fraud and embezzlement in your country. How comfortable are you with someone like Chalabi being such a critical leader in Iraq?

King Abdullah: Well, obviously, we do have an issue with Chalabi. This is something we are in discussions with the Iraqi Government. He is a member of the Iraqi Government, so government to government we hope that we can find a resolution to this problem. And all I can say is we are in negotiations, and hopefully there will be an outcome that will be positive to both the Jordanians and the Iraqis.

NBC: Finally, after September 11, 2001, the United States went into Afghanistan and routed out the Taliban who were being harboured by Al Qaeda. Will Jordan retaliate directly militarily against Al Qaeda?

King Abdullah: Well, believe me, the atmosphere in Jordan, I think that all of Jordanians are united in that they want the people who are responsible for these crimes to be brought to justice, and if we know where they are, even if it's beyond the borders of Jordan, we will give it the best shot possible to bring these people to justice.

NBC: King Abdullah of Jordan, we thank you very much for joining us and sharing your views.

King Abdullah: Thank you.