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Israel disavows general's Jordan predictions

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, Feb 23 (Reuters) The Israeli government distanced itself on Wednesday from a top army general who was quoted as suggesting that the rule of Jordanian King Abdullah could be at threat from Jordan's Palestinian majority.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she called her Jordanian counterpart to clarify that comments by Major-General Yair Naveh, commander of Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, ''in no way reflected government policy''.

At a closed-door briefing today in Jerusalem, Naveh discussed plans for the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967. Palestinians seek statehood in the territory, while many Israelis consider it a Jewish biblical birthright.

According to an audience member, at one point Naveh digressed to say that ''Jordan has its issues also''.

''Given that, he (Naveh) said, it (Jordan) is 80 percent Palestinian, he wondered aloud if Abdullah might be the last Hashemite king,'' the audience member said on condition of anonymity.

The Hashemites are Jordan's ruling clan.

Israeli media reported that the comments' leak prompted fears in the Jewish state of a diplomatic crises with Jordan, one of two Arab states with which it has full ties. There was no immediate comment from Amman.

Prior to the normalisation, some Israeli ultranationalists had suggested that Jordan, rather than the West Bank and Gaza, should serve as a future Palestinian state.

''We do not see Jordan as an alternative Palestinian state, and anyone hinting at that is not correctly articulating the policies of the government of Israel nor expressing the true long-term strategic interests of the State of Israel,'' Livni spokesman Mark Regev said.

The Defence Ministry said in a statement that ''Israel sees Jordan as a strong and stable country with a glorious tradition and promising future''. It said the top brass would ''check'' the comments attributed to Naveh.

Reuters PDS VP0057

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