King Hussein of Jordan today dismissed Syrian and Libyan attacks on his decision to renew diplomatic ties with Egypt as "futile and useless," and said he hoped it would produce an "exemplary relationship" between two friendly Arab countries for others to emulate.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a three-day state visit by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the king lashed out at his Arab critics and said he believed his action was "genuinely welcomed" by the people of the Arab world.
"As for the screaming and shouting and threats or whatever," he said in reference to Syrian and Libyan statements warning of reprisals against Jordan for his decision, "this is something we are used to.
"Really, it does not reflect in any way except on those who choose such methods, which I believe are futile and useless," he told reporters after saying goodbye at Aqaba Airport to Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, who accompanied him here.
The Jordanian monarch was the first Arab leader to restore relations among the 17 who broke with Egypt in 1979 over its peace treaty with Israel. He has said he made the decision to end the current political paralysis in the Arab world.
In so doing, he has thrown down the gauntlet to Syrian President Hafez Assad, who has declared his opposition to Egypt's return to the Arab fold until it formally renounces the Camp David accords that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
The Syrian-controlled news media have vehemently denounced Hussein, and one top Syrian official has warned that he risks the same fate as Egypt's late president Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated in October 1981.
Mubarak's hastily arranged visit here appears to have been largely symbolic and aimed primarily at encouraging other Arab leaders to follow Jordan's example.
A statement issued at the end of the visit noted its importance for "the unification of Arab ranks, reinforcing Arab solidarity and creating a positive reaction among brothers to the welfare of the whole Arab nation."
The two leaders, accompanied by their wives, came here Wednesday for more talks and relaxation at this Red Sea resort after a first round of intensive meetings in the capital Tuesday.
Asked whether he planned to visit Iraq next, an ebullient Mubarak told reporters in Amman yesterday, "Maybe soon."
The question was a veiled way of asking when he expected Iraq to announce the restoration of ties with Egypt now that Jordan has done so.
There was speculation that he might fly directly to Baghdad, but an aide to Mubarak said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had not made up his mind on when he would move to restore diplomatic relations.
The Iraqi leader was waiting to see whether the Arab summit scheduled to be held in Riyadh in November would take place, the aide said. If it is delayed, as now widely expected, then Saddam Hussein probably would go ahead and restore relations, the Mubarak aide added, opening the door for five or six others to do so in the coming year.
During Mubarak's visit here, the Jordanian monarch and Egyptian leader have stressed their desire to create a "model for cooperation" as a nucleus for rebuilding Arab solidarity, presumably around Egypt.
Hussein, however, has emphasized the visit's importance to the renewal of close ties between Amman and Cairo, while Mubarak and his aides have suggested it has wider implications for the whole Middle East peace process.
"We have specifically stressed our efforts in the area of mutual cooperation in the beginning of building the closest possible relations between our governments and peoples in many fields," the king told reporters at the airport. "It's a very good beginning, and we hope that it will result in an exemplary relationship between two sister Arab states."
The final statement said there had been an agreement to set up a joint committee under the two countries' prime ministers to ratify a program of cooperation in various fields and see to its implementation.
Asked whether the Palestinian question had been discussed, Hussein told reporters, "This was not the purpose of this visit," although he acknowledged there had been an exchange of views on the subject.
Mubarak, by contrast, said yesterday in Amman, when asked about the content of their talks, that he and Hussein had consulted on "the next move in the Palestinian question."
In addition, Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid told Jordanian reporters who asked about the possibility of new moves to resolve the Palestinian issue, "We have to unify our thoughts and opinions before sitting at the discussion table."
There was no indication whether the two leaders had decided on new moves to break the deadlock in the Middle East peace process.
There had been speculation here that Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat might join the two leaders here, but the Mubarak aide said that Arafat's presence would only have complicated his already delicate leadership position.
Arafat has been trying to hold a special session of the Palestine National Council, the PLO's "parliament," to reconfirm his leadership, but Syria and Syrian-backed Palestinian groups that seek his ouster have blocked the meeting.
This in turn has kept Arafat from reaching agreement with Hussein on possible Palestinian participation in any future peace talks.
Both he and Mubarak are known to be eager to establish a degree of unity in Arab and Palestinian ranks to prepare for possible new moves in the peace process after the U.S. presidential election. All indications are, however, that they have a long way to go before there is any consensus either among the Arab countries or the Palestinians on how to deal with Israel.