King Abdullah concerned by threat of war

By Susan Cornwell

Washington - The Middle East is on the verge of three civil wars - in Iraq, Israel and Lebanon - unless strong action is taken urgently by the international community, Jordan's King Abdullah warned on Sunday.

With United States President George Bush heading to Amman this week to talk with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Abdullah said "something dramatic" must come from that meeting to stop violence spinning out of control in Iraq.

"I don't think we're in a position where we can come back and revisit the problem in early 2007," he said on ABC's This Week.

But the United States must also look at the "big picture" and seek comprehensive Middle Eastern solutions involving all regional players, he said - indicating this should include Syria and Iran.

"We're juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it's the Palestinians, that of Lebanon or of Iraq," the Jordanian king said.

"We could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands. And therefore, it is time that we really take a strong step forward as part of the international community and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis that I fear, and I see could possibly happen in 2007," Abdullah said.

With Iraq near all-out civil war, the Bush administration is renewing efforts to break the cycle of violence there by enlisting the help of moderate Arab nations.

US Vice President Dick Cheney has just returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia and talks on the Middle East, and Bush and Maliki are to meet in Amman Wednesday and Thursday for what is shaping up to be a crisis summit.

Abdullah hoped Maliki would have ideas for Bush on how to be "inclusive" in bringing together different groups in Iraq.

"And they need to do it now, because, obviously, as we're seeing, things are beginning to spiral out of control... There needs to be some very strong action taken on the ground there today," he said.

Bush has so far avoided the hands-on approach to Middle East peacemaking of his predecessors, but that may change as he turns to advice from former Secretary of State James Baker who is leading a review on Iraq policy.

Iraq's security adviser said in a separate interview Sunday that Iraq already was a regional battleground, with Islamic movements from several Arab countries funding the insurgents fighting the Iraqi government and the US Army.

"It's not one country. It's not two countries. It is more than that," Mowaffak al-Rubaie told CNN's Late Edition. "This is a fight, or this is a war between the extremists and the moderates in the whole region."

He added that Iran was "helping some of the extremist Shi'a groups in Iraq", but said there was no evidence Iran was helping al-Qaeda or anti-government insurgents in Iraq.

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