The Jordanian government today denounced as "a combination of fabrication and distortion" a Washington Post report that King Hussein has received secret CIA payments for 20 years. The government charged that the article was timed to damage its relations with the United States and torpedo the peacemaking efforts of Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, who arrived in the Jordanian capital today.
Except for the brief Jordanian statement, later embellished by a broadcast on the state radio, Jordanian and U.S. officials maintained a discreet diplomatic silence.
In an interview with reporters aboard his plane, Vance said in a level but determined voice, "I have no comment on the story." After landing here he declined to take any questions at an airport ceremony. Sitting under a large portrait of a smiling Hussein in the airport lounge. Vance, who later met with the monarch praised the king for his role in resolving "the bitterness and conflict that exists in the Middle East."
U.S. officials traveling with Vance made no secret of their dismay that the story was published on the eve of Vance's visit. They said Vance had known of the Post inquiries about CIA payments for three or four days but only learned this morning from Washington that it was being published.
Thre was no doubt that the disclosure complicated Vance's mission here. Unofficial Palestinian sources said it might make more difficult the rapproachement between Hussein and the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the works for several months, that was the basis of the plan for the Jordanian-Palestinian confederation proposed Cairo last night by Egiptian President Anwar Sadat.
The Jordanian government statement did not mention the details of the report about Hussein and did not say that the king is personally involved, as is charged. Director general Yusef Abu Leil of the official Jordan News Agency, who distributed the statement to the press, refused comment when asked specifically whether Hussein had accepted money from the CIA. A Radio Jordan broadcast tonight summarized the government statement without mentioning Hussein by name, giving listeners no clear idea of what the original story said. The newscast called the Post story "lies" and charged that "the writer of the article is known for his Zionist attitude," but it did not give the identity of the reporter, Bob Woodward.
Neither statement was made in the government declaration which said:
"His Majesty King Hussein has led Jordan into a close cooperation with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and friendship. Jordan has pursued its relations with the United States in its own national interest, and in a spirit of loyalty to Arab aspirations, rights and interests."
It added that Jordan has welcomed U.S. assistance in this spirit and said that "the Jordanian leadership has not engaged in improper practices or pursued personal interests."
The Jordanian press was reportedly planning to simply carry the text of the government statement without amplification or comment in Saturday morning editions. A Jordanian journalist said the story is "too touchy" to do anything more or less.
[Reuter, in a translation of an Arabic language dispatch of the Jordan News Agency, quoted an official Jordanian spokesman as saying that the newspaper and the writer of the article were "well known for, their connection with the Zionists in the United States." The newspaper has in the past, "published fabricated stories aimed at dividing the Arab ranks or harming the mutual confidence which honorable Arab elements in the United States are trying to establish between the Arab homeland and America," the spokesman added, according to Reuter. These comments were not made available to reporters traveling with Vance].
In a press conference before landing here, Vance called Sadat's proposal for a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation "a constructive suggestion" that brought some narrowing of the gap between Arab and Israeli positions on the question of a future Palestinian state. Vance said it appeared to him that the Sadat plan had the support of "some of the PLO."
He also said he has the feeling that Sadat is trying to convince the PLO to change its governing convenant, which calls for a war of liberation against Israel, but would not asses his chances for success.
Sadat's foreign minister!" Ismail Fahmi met PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in Cairo just minutes before Vance's arrival there yesterday.
Vance said "there are big differences" between the Eguptian and Israeli positions as he found them on the first stops of his mission. He said he was encouraged, however, that both sides said they are prepared to go to a Geneva conference without preconditions if the procedural questions can be resolved. Vance said he still expects the Geneva peace conference to meet in the second half of this year.
In a four-hour stop in Beirut between Cairo and Amman, Vance discussed the Middle East peace problem with Lebanese President Elias Sarkis and announced that the United States will supply $50 million in new aid to the devastated country over the next few months.
Vance was guarded during his stop-over by Arab peacekeeping forces that have enforced a truce in Lebanese, with Syrian troops and their Soviet tanks and small arms much in evidence. A Soviet delegation headed by Mikhail Setenko, Middle East cheif of the Foreign Ministery in Moscow, as well as French Foreign Minister Louis de Quiringuad were also in Beirut to day. Both men are on tours of the Arab states looking into the prospects for a Middle East settlement.