Clinton Hails Hussein for Leadership
By Stephen Barr
Jordan's King Hussein, who died yesterday, will be remembered as having "lived his life on a higher plane," always showing courage in working for Middle East peace, President Clinton said in a Rose Garden eulogy before leaving for Amman to attend the monarch's funeral.
"The world mourns the loss of one of its great leaders," Clinton said. "I mourn the loss of a partner and friend."
Accompanying Clinton at the funeral today will be three former presidents – George Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford. Bush lauded Hussein as "a loyal ally for the United States and a visionary advocate of Middle East peace."
The official U.S. delegation includes Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Reps. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.) and David E. Bonior (D-Mich.), Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, and State Department officials Thomas R. Pickering, Dennis B. Ross and Martin S. Indyk.
Also traveling on Air Force One were the U.S. parents of Queen Noor, Najeeb and Doris Halaby, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was in the Netherlands, was to fly from there to Jordan.
Clinton spoke with Hussein's eldest son, King Abdullah, for about 10 minutes yesterday, expressing condolences and U.S. support for Jordan, a White House spokesman said. Clinton plans to meet with the new king today, the spokesman said.
In offering their messages of sympathy yesterday, virtually all U.S. officials praised Hussein as a peacemaker.
Hussein left his cancer treatments at the Mayo Clinic in October to help broker the Wye River accord that revived the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and Clinton praised the Jordanian for his critical role in the negotiations.
"When the talks were not going so well, he came out within a few short minutes and changed the tenor of the meeting," Clinton said.
"Though frail with fighting for his own life, he gave life to the process many felt was failing. The smallest man in the room that day was the largest; the frailest was the strongest. The man with the least time remaining reminded us we are working not only for ourselves but for all eternity."
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright predicted Abdullah would carry on his father's "policies of peace and strength for Jordan, and the important role in terms of continuity that Jordan has played in assisting in the stability of the Middle East."
Albright, on CNN's "Late Edition," described the new king as "someone who has been schooled in the traditions of his country," but said Jordan needs support. "Other leaders in the Middle East, who believe in the peace process and who understand the importance of the peace process not only for Israel, but for themselves, will also have to be helpful as we move forward," Albright said.
Asked whether the administration was concerned that nations not friendly to the United States would try to take advantage of Abdullah, Berger, on CNN, replied that "it would be a grave mistake for Iraq to test Jordan. . . . It would be an act that would be self-defeating."
Hussein's funeral falls on the day that the Senate begins closing arguments in Clinton's impeachment trial. Stevens and Leahy will miss those arguments but should return in time for votes Tuesday on whether final deliberations by senators should be open to the public.
Richard F. Fenno Jr., a University of Rochester political science professor, said Clinton's trip would likely be a "non-event" as it relates to the impeachment trial.
But, he added, like the State of the Union speech and the attacks on Iraq, the trip would provide "one more opportunity for him to be presidential. . . . He is always more presidential when he is abroad than when he is at home."
Congressional leaders also praised Hussein.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said "it is vitally important for both our nations to deepen our mutual commitment to strengthen" long-standing ties, "just as King Hussein would have wanted it."
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) called Hussein "a peacemaker in a troubled region" and "the glue that held the process together."
Richard D. Heideman, president of B'nai B'rith International, the Jewish human rights organization that nominated Hussein for the Nobel Peace Prize for helping the Wye River accord, said Hussein's effort there was "one more shining example of his commitment to peace."
© Copyright 1999 The Washinton Post Company