Jordan's King Hussein has said U.S. refusal to deal directly with the Palestine Liberation Organization was "partly to blame" for the breakdown of his talks with Yasser Arafat on President Reagan's Middle East peace initiative.
"I tried the impossible--to initiate a direct dialogue between the U.S. and the PLO, but the U.S. remained adamant," Hussein said in an interview published today in the independent Beirut newspaper An Nahar.
Hussein also blamed U.S. failure to get Israel to withdraw its troops from Lebanon or halt the construction of Jewish settlements on the Israeli-occupied West Bank for the collapse of efforts to reach a common negotiating strategy with PLO Chairman Arafat.
A third obstacle, he said, was the failure to include Moscow in the peace effort. "I believe a Soviet-American meeting is inevitable, but I hope it will not be too late as far as we are concerned," Hussein said.
The United States has refused to deal with the PLO unless it recognizes Israel. But after the breakdown of the Hussein-Arafat talks, President Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz attempted to pressure the PLO by blaming its "radical elements" for blocking the peace initiative and suggesting that Arab nations ought to reconsider their decision in 1974 naming the PLO as the "sole, legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people.
The U.S. strategy puzzled some Middle Eastern diplomats, who predicted correctly that it would harden support for the PLO.
Although Hussein had expressed strong exasperation in his dealings with Arafat in a series of interviews with The Wall Street Journal that were directed at U.S. and European audiences, his interview with An Nahar, widely respected in the Arab world, appeared to pin more blame on the United States.
Speaking to An Nahar, however, Hussein did call the Reagan initiative the "only working mechanism" for peacemaking efforts in the Middle East and said a U.S. decision to terminate those efforts would be the "ultimate disaster."
"This is the boldest move by an American administration," he said of the Reagan plan. "It has negative points and ambiguities, and it has positive points. It is imperative to give and take and find out what's at stake." But he said America's credibility was at stake in Shultz's current efforts to bring about the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon.
"America's credibility will be adversely affected if no withdrawal is secured," he said. "If the United States is incapable of making Israel withdraw from Lebanon . . . how could the United States influence Israel in the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan?"
The Reagan plan envisions creation of a Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would be linked to Jordan. Reagan recently suggested to Syria that the peace efforts also are designed to return to them the Golan Heights, which Israel has annexed.
Hussein rejected any U.S. suggestion that the PLO could be bypassed in negotiations. "We shall not take part in any future negotiating process . . . without some sort of an agreement with the PLO," he said.
Jordanians and western diplomats have strongly suggested that opposition by Syrian-based factions under the influence of the Soviet Union was responsible for the failure of the Arafat-Hussein talks. But Hussein, asked if Arab countries such as Syria were to blame, told An Nahar: "Maybe. They can answer that question. I can't."