Jordan's ambassador to the United States, Abdul Hadi Majali, was incorrectly identified in a photo caption in yesterday's late editions.
Queen Noor of Jordan's previous Washington trips have been filled with museums, children and other wifely chores fit for the spouse of a king. But last night at Georgetown University, she startled everyone by delivering what she termed a "political message" from her husband back home.
"When Jordan is considering asking the United States government for weapons to meet its basic self-defense needs, a storm is created over the issue in Washington," she said. "This detracts more from the image and credibility of the United States than it affects Jordan."
The speech covered increasingly familiar political ground although it was, in the words of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service Dean Peter Krogh, "pretty tough." Noor, who made clear she was speaking for her husband, King Hussein of Jordan, addressed Palestinian rights and Israeli occupation of Arab land. She quoted him as saying, among other things: "Democracy, Israeli style, places bombs in the cars of elected Arab mayors . . . which mutilates them for life . . ." and "Palestinians either live under the nightmare of occupation and the denial of their human rights, or are physically attacked by the Israeli war machine--supplied over the years with the latest technology which United States genius produces."
At a reception afterward, as the American-born Queen Noor (she was Lisa Halaby at Princeton) dazzled men and women, Middle East authorities assessed the speech. Several thought Hussein's decision to use his wife to convey his message was a more interesting development than the contents of the speech itself--particularly at a time when Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger has said he thinks Jordan needs a mobile air-defense system.
"We think this is a prime time," said Abdul Hadi Majali, Jordan's ambassador to the United States. "If we drag beyond 1982, Americans will start thinking of the election."
"There's a sense of urgency about this matter," said Krogh, the foreign service school dean. "At this moment, it's important for Jordan to be getting its message across as it seeks approval to buy arms."
Noor seemed a little nervous before her speech to 500 diplomats, professors and students in Georgetown's Gaston Hall. She tightly clasped her hands, sparkling with precious rings. She held her purse stiffly in the lap of her navy blue dress, accented with a white, almost school-girlish collar. But she gained confidence at the end, and during the applause, she seemed to be hiding a smile. "I felt it critical that I deliver it perfectly," she said. Afterward she was the gracious, immaculately attired 30-year-old queen whose previous impact on Washington has often centered on the dresses she wore to White House state dinners.
She was asked if the speech were her idea or her husband's.
"We did it together," she replied. "I told him--I suggested--that it would be a forum for substance. In the end, he drafted what I consider a very substantial message."
Then someone said it was hard to imagine another wife of a current Arab leader delivering such a message.
"I don't know if it's ever been done before," she said, pleased.
Noor, a Princeton graduate who married Hussein when she was 26, made this American visit to open "The Heritage of Islam" cultural exhibit in Houston. She grew up in Washington and is the daughter of Najeeb Halaby, the former chief executive of Pan American World Airways. She stopped here to deliver the speech, sponsored by the university's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.
She was careful to keep herself out of the politics of the speech. "I am not a political person," she told the crowd. "Nor do I assume responsibilities in that field. But I am obviously aware of, affected by and concerned about the political conflict in the Middle East."
Her father, who was in the crowd, had different ideas. "She really believes very, very strongly what she says," he said. "It's his message--as well as hers."