Jordan's King Abdullah Open to Constitutional Monarchy

JENNINGS: Do you think Hezbollah in Lebanon is a terrorist organization?

ABDULLAH: The way we see it, they're an organization that have moved into politics. And we hope that they will continue to move in that direction. And again, they're an important part of Lebanese society, and they can't be ruled out on that basis.

JENNINGS: Did you explain that to President Bush?

ABDULLAH: President Bush understands that they are moving into politics. I think he just heard the statement today, while I was sitting next to him, and he encouraged, I believe, Hezbollah to look at politics as the way to go forward.

JENNINGS: The president's much-trusted adviser, Karen Hughes, is about to take this new position, improving the American image in the rest of the world. What would you counsel her about the Middle East?

ABDULLAH: I think the problem that America has faced with image in the recent years is obviously a perception in the Middle East that Israel is the only country that holds sway in the United States, so that there is a sort of a biased outlook towards the Middle East. As a result, people feel that the Palestinians have been short-changed. Unfortunately, I think initially what happened in Iraq, the visual images that we get in media, where you have sort of Israeli troops occupying Palestinians, American troops occupying Iraq have added to that problem. But I believe that if we see movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and that of Iraq, then the views are going to change, and we said the optimism of all these reforms, these elections, I hope that at the end of the day, whatever part America has played in it will get the credit for making the Middle East a better place.

JENNINGS: Last December, you, in reference to what was happening in Iraq, referred to the Shiite crescent that was developing from Iraq around the Gulf, which was widely taken as a concern by you, that you were threatened by Shiite power.

ABDULLAH: We're not at all threatened by Shiite power. As you know, as being the descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, we have actually a very special relationship with the Shia. And it was turned from what I made as a political message into a religious context. We have a very close affinity to Shia all over the world, especially the Shia in Iraq, and we were concerned that there were elements inside of Iran at that particular point of time that had strategical (sic) objectives in Iraq, which would not be conducive to the harmony between Sunnis and Shia.

JENNINGS: Do you therefore believe that Shiite power in Iraq is largely benign?

ABDULLAH: I do believe so. I think the overwhelming majority of Shia in Iraq want Iraq for themselves. They are obviously an essential building block to the future of Iraq, and again, as the Shias and Muslims and Kurds come together that want Iraq for Iraq, I think that is the best change the country has to become part of the international community as quickly as possible.

JENNINGS: Thank you very much.

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