U.S. Vote on Jerusalem Upsets Jordan

GENEVA -- Declaring himself "saddened" by a U.S. Congress resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, King Hussein of Jordan said Friday that this undermined Washington's role as mediator.


"It's very sad, very unfortunate that such a decision should have emanated from the United States at this particular point in time," Hussein told journalists.


He reiterated his view that Israel should become an "open city" and capital of both Palestine and Israel.


The U.S. House of Representatives voted 406-17 Tuesday to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel -- a position opposed by the Clinton administration as a hindrance to Mideast peace efforts.


Palestinian leaders have condemned the U.S. vote.


The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and home to 180,000 Palestinians, as a future capital. The status of the disputed city is the most explosive issue on the agenda of troubled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.


Most countries in the world, including the United States, have not recognized Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem. Successive U.S. governments have maintained that the city must never be divided again, but that its future must be settled through negotiations.


"Jerusalem will represent the achievement of an Arab-Israeli peace, and more particularly a Palestinian-Israeli peace, in an open city constituting in its eastern and western parts a capital of both Palestine and Israel," Hussein said in a speech to the International Labor Organization, which is holding its annual conference.


"To prejudge the issue in this way is not very constructive at all, and I'm very saddened by it," he subsequently told journalists in reference to the House vote.


He said Russia and Europe should play a stronger role in the Middle East peace process and put forward their viewpoints at next week's Group of Seven leading industrialized nations summit in Denver.


"The world has something to say," Hussein said.


"The United States has a tremendous role to play and unfortunately such actions as we have seen undermine that capability," he said in reference to the Jerusalem vote.


The House also voted Tuesday to provide $100 million for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is subject to approval by the Senate and U.S. President Bill Clinton, who opposes moving the embassy while peace talks are ongoing.


In the past year, Washington had assumed a more active role as mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. In shuttle diplomacy, U.S. envoy Dennis Ross negotiated the partial Israeli troop pullback from the West Bank town of Hebron earlier this year.


However, Ross' latest mission -- to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table after contacts broke off in a dispute over Jerusalem -- has failed, and Egypt has stepped into the void.


"I hope the United States will be an honest broker and will contribute more than the carrying of views from one side to another," Hussein said.