White House working to bolster Jordan's economy
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Clinton administration is working through Congress, world lending organizations and its Western and Persian Gulf allies to bolster the economy of Jordan and its new monarch, King Abdullah.
"Economic assistance is as strong a signal as can be sent," a State Department official said Monday. The official said the assistance is a clear political sign that "we're going to do what it takes to stand by Jordan" under the leadership of its new king.
The State Department official told CNN that the United States is working on four avenues to both increase aid and relieve the debt burden of the Hashemite kingdom.
The administration is already working on a plan announced Friday by President Clinton to expedite congressional approval of $300 million in aid that was part of the Wye peace agreement, the official said.
That assistance, to be disbursed over three years, was originally contingent upon implementation of the accord, signed in October by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Abdullah's father, King Hussein.
That would be in addition to the $225 million in annual assistance the United States already planned to send Jordan over the next two fiscal years.
Secondly, the United States is working through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank on assistance packages and debt rescheduling for Jordan.
White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger predicted Monday that expedited loan negotiations between the IMF and Jordan would lead to a quick agreement.
"My understanding is that that could happen rather soon," Berger told reporters in Amman, Jordan, after attending Hussein's funeral as part of the U.S. delegation.
An IMF deal, which would carry economic conditions, could free up hundreds of millions of dollars in coming months to replenish Jordan's foreign exchange reserves. It could also pave the way for other assistance and for a rescheduling of debt with major creditors.
Following Hussein's death from cancer on Sunday, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus issued a statement offering condolences to the country and pledging to speed talks on a three-year loan program for the struggling economy.
As a principal contributor to both the World Bank and the IMF, the United States can lend a weighty voice in favor of such programs.
The State Department official said the United States is also working through the Paris Club to get debt relief from member countries. The Paris Club is a collection of wealthy creditor nations.
Finally, the official said, the Clinton administration has been in touch with the seven major industrialized nations, known as the G-7, and its allies in the Gulf to encourage them to "ante up" and contribute aid or relieve the debt of the kingdom.
State Department Producer Sharona Schwartz and Reuters contributed to this report.
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