AMMAN, JORDAN, OCT. 25 -- Jordan has halted exports to Iraq, including humanitarian aid, in an effort to convince potential aid donors that it is fully respecting the U.N. economic embargo.
The ban on humanitarian shipments was imposed pending a response to Jordan's application for approval of such exports from a special U.N. sanctions committee.
The decision to halt humanitarian exports, formalized last weekend by King Hussein and key ministers, is seen here as a move to counter Jordan's notoriety abroad as a backer of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But it has limited practical effect, according to Jordanian officials and foreign diplomats.
Shipments allowed across the border in the last two months were largely confined to food and drugs classified by the Jordanian government as humanitarian goods excluded from the blockade, they said.
Diplomatic sources said the step was taken, despite widespread sympathy here for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, to prevent charges of sanctions-busting from holding up European and Japanese aid for the staggering Jordanian economy.
"The issue had become a kind of litmus test for the aid," a Western diplomat commented.
Hussein has insisted Jordan would respect the economic embargo from the time the U.N. Security Council imposed it on Aug. 6. But Amman also has notified the world body that it must continue to import Iraqi oil because there is no other way to meet its needs, estimated at 60,000 barrels a day.
In addition, diplomatic and other reports said some Jordanian products and transshipments from the Jordanian port of Aqaba continued to flow across the border during the embargo's first few weeks. By last month, however, a combination of U.S. naval interdiction at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and government bans on all but humanitarian goods prompted U.S. and other officials to express satisfaction with Jordan's compliance with the embargo.
At the same time, Hussein's refusal to participate in the U.S.-led military confrontation of Iraq and his advocacy of a negotiated solution have generated widespread resentment in Europe, the United States and the Persian Gulf. The king's contested stand created an atmosphere in which even the limited shipments to Iraq were seen as a challenge to the embargo or, at the least, half-hearted observance.
Jordan's General Union of Voluntary Societies, for example, sent three shipments of food, milk and medicine in widely publicized gestures of support for the Iraqi people, who were depicted here as victims of a cruel blockade imposed on innocent civilians. The Iraqi government had one convoy of these trucks drive up and down Baghdad streets to show residents of the capital that they enjoyed support abroad despite the array of hostile forces in the gulf.
But a fourth convoy of 16 truckloads planned by the charitable group was halted Oct. 14 just before it was to leave Amman. This was the first sign the government planned to tighten observance of the embargo.
Since then, the government Saturday refused authorization for two shipments of drugs bound for Baghdad from two Jordanian pharmaceutical companies. The Jordan Times, a daily English-language newspaper, said this marked a clear shift from previous policy, under which one company had been sending regular shipments weekly to Iraq.
Diplomatic sources said recent checks of trucks at the border crossing point of Ruweished showed only empty trucks have been passing through on the way to Iraq. Officials explained these trucks are being sent to bring back the belongings of Jordanians who have returned home from jobs in Iraq because of the crisis.
Jordanian leaders repeatedly have complained that the cost to Jordan of observing the embargo has been underestimated abroad. Ibrahim Badran, an undersecretary in the Trade and Industry Ministry, told local reporters that Jordan has lost 80 percent of its export trade because of the gulf crisis.
In addition to losing a flourishing transit trade with Iraq that blossomed particularly during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Jordan has been frozen out of export markets in Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries that were major importers of Jordanian fruits and vegetables. Saudi Arabia has refused to allow Jordanian goods to cross into its territory in retaliation for Hussein's stand in the gulf confrontation.
A special U.N. envoy, Jean Ripert, estimated last week that Jordan could lose up to a third of its gross national product this year and even more next year from lost exports, transit fees and remittances from abroad. Prime Minister Mudar Badran said the lost remittances alone will cost Jordan $8 billion.
Japan has promised $250 million in easy-term loans and Germany has pledged about $200 million in loans and aid to help Jordan through the crisis. The European Community has agreed to provide about $2 billion to Egypt, Turkey and Jordan to help compensate their losses.
Jordanian officials have complained, however, that this aid has yet to arrive. Despite denials from U.S., Japanese and European officials, some here have voiced suspicion that the delay is due to pique against Hussein's policies and his authorization of the highly visible humanitarian exports to Iraq.