Hussein reveals peace concerns during meeting with Mordechai

AMMAN, Jordan — Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai flew to Amman Sunday to seek King Hussein's help in brokering a deal with the Palestinians on the second redeployment.

"I got the sense that the king is concerned about the situation," Mordechai told military reporters who accompanied him to Amman. "But just like in the Hebron agreement and other instances, the king is prepared to help.

"In the state it is now in, the peace process demands support from all elements in order to achieve progress," added Mordechai.

During their relatively short, one-hour meeting at Hussein's newly built Gate of Peace Palace on the western edge of Amman, Mordechai and Hussein tried to flesh out ideas on just how the Jordanian monarch could contribute.

While not soliciting Hussein's pressure on Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, the Israelis are hoping the king will be able to make the Palestinians more "flexible and understanding" so they accept the Israeli plan for a second withdrawal, one government official said.

Palestinian officials said Arafat had turned down a U.S. request to attend Sunday's meeting between Hussein and Mordechai.

In the meantime, Mordechai was acting more cautiously and did not have the same upbeat attitude as when he returned from Cairo last Tuesday, where he said the time for decisions was at hand.

Mordechai said the agreement on a second Israel Defense Force redeployment in the West Bank would be achieved "shortly," but declined to be more specific.

Speaking at an impromptu news conference, Hussein called Mordechai his "very good friend," adding that "after hearing Defense Minister Mordechai I am more optimistic."

Mordechai appears to be the solid force spearheading implementation of the pullback and is considered the leading moderate in Netanyahu's Cabinet.

Still, it is not clear just how much influence he has in the government, particularly after he failed to follow through with a threat in January to resign if the troop pullback in the West Bank did not take place within three months.

The Jordanians have much respect for Mordechai, a former general. Mordechai and Hussein have met on a number of occasions, not all of them official or reported.

Despite the warm reception, news of Mordechai's visit did not appear in any of the Jordanian press, and only a small group of Israeli reporters accompanying Mordechai and one Jordanian working for the state-run TV and news agency Petra were allowed at the news conference.