Arafat meets Jordan's King to discuss hardships


Palestinian leader Mr Yasser Arafat held talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II on ways of ending the "hardships" of the Palestinian people and lifting an Israeli blockade on Palestinian territories.

The two leaders met for one hour in the King's private residence for talks which also focused on "the need to resume the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations from where they left off," a court official said.

"They discussed steps that could be taken to end the hardships facing the Palestinian people and to lift an Israeli blockade of Palestinian territories," the official added.

Palestinian charge d'affaires Mr Atallah Khairy earlier told AFPthat Mr Arafat and King Abdullah would also discuss "the consequences of the planned formation of a (national unity) government in Israel after a decision by the Labour Party to join the cabinet."

Mr Arafat is expected to fly later to Cairo where he is scheduled to hold similar talks with Egyptian President Mr Hosni Mubarak and to brief him also on his meeting with US Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell, Mr Khairy said.

Mr Arafat's visit to Jordan is the second since Saturday when he held talks with Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb in Amman, as Mr Powell began his tour of the Middle East which also included Jordan.

"These visits are part of Jordanian-Palestinian efforts to coordinate their views ahead of the Arab summit" which will be held in Amman on March 27, Mr Khairy said.

Earlier, King Abdullah received Mr Mubarak for talks focusing on the Arab summit which both leaders hope will mark a "beginning" in Arab unity.

At the end of their meetings Jordanian Foreign Minister Mr Abdel Ilah al-Khatib said the Palestinian cause remained the top priority for Cairo and Amman, which are both bound by a peace treaty to Israel.