Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

March 20, 2013

AP INTERVIEW: Jordan king says Assad days numbered

(Continued)

He warned that radicalization of Syria, together with the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, could ignite the entire region.

"Another extremely dangerous scenario is the fragmentation of Syria, which would trigger sectarian conflicts across the region for generations to come," he said. "And also the huge risk that Syria could become a regional base for extremist and terrorist groups, which we are already seeing establishing firm footholds in some areas," the king added.

"All these are extremely dangerous threats. I have been warning against them all, especially the chemical weapons threat, since the beginning of the crisis," he said.

As for the humanitarian emergency, the king said assistance is direly needed not only to the host countries, like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey but also inside Syria, so that "hearts and minds can be won before extremists fill the vacuum left by a failed Syrian state and mass exoduses are prevented."

He said faced with all these threats, Jordan is working on "contingencies to protect our population and borders, in self-defense." He declined to elaborate.

But government officials and Jordan-based Western diplomats have said that Jordan has been shopping around for Patriot missiles to be stationed on its northern border, should tensions across the frontier escalate.

Abdullah appealed to the international community to "to catch up and support Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to cover the increasing costs of hosting Syrian refugees."

He said that if the conflict escalated further, as is widely expected, he could see the number of refugees almost double over the next six to eight months.

He said Jordan continues to exert its utmost "diplomatic efforts to assist in bridging gaps in the international community so that an agreement can be reached on an inclusive political transition that preserves the territorial integrity and unity of Syria."

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