In this wide-ranging telephone interview from Washington, DC with Randa Habib, the Amman-based correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo and Agence France Presse, King Hussein dismisses speculation concerning the succession to the throne as "nonsensical." He stresses that the succession rests firmly in the hands of HRH Crown Prince El Hassan, and that such speculation is "out of line."
King Hussein said that his health is now far better than when he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic on July 14. Concerning the faltering Arab-Israeli peace process, His Majesty stated firmly that "the answer is in the hands of Israel and its government."
His Majesty also commented on the recent water crisis in Jordan, saying that he "was deeply disturbed by attempts at covering up the defects which should be exposed" and that "We should act with full transparency so that we can correct our mistakes."
"King Dismisses Speculations Over Succession as Nonsensical"
The Jordan Times August 12, 1998
(This article is based on an interview with Randa Habib, correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo and Agence France Presse)
His Majesty King Hussein on Tuesday dismissed speculation concerning succession to the Throne as "nonsensical."
"As far as the succession is concerned, it rests in the hands of my brother (His Royal Highness Crown Prince El Hassan), whom I have chosen over others many years ago, and who has shouldered his responsibilities and performed his duties fully," King Hussein said in a telephone interview with Randa Habib, the Amman-based correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo and Agence France Presse.
"All this talk, in fact, is out of line, coming it seems from many out there whose objective has always been to attack us in some form or another, and to make us weaker," King Hussein said in the interview on the 46th anniversary of his accession to the Throne.
The international press and Arabic press based abroad have published reports and analyses speculating on the future of the Jordanian Throne.
Time and Newsweek magazine, as well as leading newspapers in Britain and the U.S., in addition to dailies in the Arab World and abroad, have all written articles that speculated on the future of Jordan after King Hussein and claimed that there was competition in the Royal family over succession.
An article in Newsweek by Edward Said in which he made accusations against the Kingdom especially angered Jordanians.
In the interview with Radio Monte Carlo the King said that all he wished for is that the "Hashemite family continue to serve and build and to be a significant factor in uniting the people."
"All the issues that may be surrounded by speculation or anxiety will have the right answers in the right time," the King said.
Her Majesty Queen Noor, who is accompanying the King during his stay at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, on Monday told CNN in an interview that media speculation about succession was sensationalist and premature.
She said the King "could be with us for decades to come."
"He sees this (his illness) as another struggle of the many struggles that he has had to face in his life and one that he is determined to overcome and vanquish," the Queen said.
In the interview with AFP the King said his health was far better than when he was admitted to hospital on July 14. The King starts a new round of chemotherapy to treat a lymphoma today.
In the wide ranging interview the King said he was disturbed by the stumbling Middle East peace process.
"The issue at hand is far bigger and its dangers are real. Those who speak in a language of war do not realize the meaning of war," he said.
But he added: "This does not mean the answer is in our hands, the answer is in the hands of Israel and its government."
He warned that "we might face uncomfortable developments not only affecting us, but rather all others in the region."
Asked to comment on the recent developments in the Kingdom associated with the water crisis, the King said that he "was deeply disturbed by attempts at covering up the defects which should be exposed.
"We should act with full transparency so that we can correct our mistakes," the King said.
Following are major excerpts of the interview:
Randa Habib: After all these years as ruler, can you give us an evaluation about themgood or bad ?
King Hussein: The past years were full of major events which have had their direct impact on the regionfrom the time when foreign powers imposed their hegemony on it and until today. Regrettably the instability in the Arab World that lasted for a long time cost us the loss of great opportunities for progress and cooperation and we missed chances for achieving integration.
We have been true to our call for Arab unity in the full sense of the word. However, there are new trends through which we can attain our objectiveby economic integration and cooperation which we hope will be transformed into facts on the ground in the near future. As for Jordan we believe that we have followed a course that is beneficial for the Arabs and Jordan has set examples of sacrifice and of genuine support for the Arab brothers under all circumstances. Thank God Jordan is now on the right course of democracy. Democracy cannot be attained without an experiment until the time comes for all to rise to the required level. Jordan has acquired a prominent status in the world around us including the Arab World.
Jordan is advocating a just and honorable peace and is committed to this call under all circumstances. We seek peace that can be acceptable to the coming generations. We seek peace despite all the hardships and difficulties that we continue to face and hope to see this objective realized because it is the hope of the majority of people in Jordan and elsewhere. The past years were truly difficult and we learned from the experience. I am grateful to the Jordanian family which has supported me under all circumstances and I hope that Jordan will always set a good example for others in the region and the world at large.
Randa Habib: Despite the long distance from home you have been following up on your country's problems and affairs. This was demonstrated clearly in your letter to Crown Prince Hassan. In your view how can Jordan deal with the negative situations?
King Hussein: This is part of our life at this stage. When I talked about democracy I meant that it should not be regarded as a recipe by rather as an exercise. I believe the present situation is a reflection of what we have been experiencing recently. We have made long strides in ensuring immunity for our employees in order to give them reassurance over their future under all circumstances but recently we have come face to face with more than one incident but God has protected us. I am talking about negligence and shirking of responsibility which is a sign that we are facing danger should the present situation be allowed to continue unchecked. Personally, I believe that for example since the water of Lake Tiberias is relatively still, and this is known through history, why precautionary measures have not been taken in advance to avoid mishaps.
I was deeply disturbed by attempts at covering up the defects which should be exposed and we should act with full transparency so that we can correct our mistakes. Those responsible for these mistakes must be punished to guarantee that errors are not repeated at the expense of the nation and the people. As to the water problem I believe we should not be lax in dealing with it. The water should be fresh and healthy and in its natural state and anything less than that is absolutely unacceptable. Water resources are scarce and our problem is a big one but we have solutions and I wonder why we do not deal with the problem. Why does such a problem not happen in other regions? The situation is totally unacceptable nor is it acceptable to see any one covering up for it.
Randa Habib: You follow up on events was not confined to domestic issues but covered the stalled peace negotiations as well. You have been monitoring with concern contacts between the Crown Prince and the Israeli and Palestinian officials. How do you evaluate the situation now in light of the Israeli government's position?
King Hussein: In my view we are far behind what had to be achieved in the region in connection with the peace process. Peace cannot be achieved unless we are equals and based on mutual respect and true desire for its establishment so that the future generations can benefit from it. It is not a matter of bargaining over small matters. The issue at hand is far bigger and its dangers are real. Those who speak in the language of war do not realize the meaning of war or the value of humans nor do they realize the consequences on the present and the future of people. This does not mean that the answer is in our hands. The answer is in the hands of Israel and its government. We can try to achieve this objective through contacts with the Israeli people and officials.
Randa Habib: The stalled peace negotiations constitute a fertile ground for forces of extremism. How great are the fears of an impending explosion?
King Hussein: I believe the hands of the clock are moving not in the interest of anybody. We might face uncomfortable developments not only affecting us but rather all others in the region.
Randa Habib: You have met President Clinton in Washington, are there plans for further meetings?
King Hussein: Contacts are continuing. It was a chance for me and Queen Noor to meet the president and First Lady Hillary Clinton. They overwhelmed us with warm feelings and we talked about our problems and issues of common concern. I believe President Clinton is doing everything possible to give momentum to the peace process.
Randa Habib: You have talked to the Jordanian people about your health condition and we have to ask you about your health because we heard from Jordanians that if their King falls sick the whole country will suffer.
King Hussein: I would like to assure everybody that my health condition is far better than it has been before. My health today cannot be compared with my state when I arrived in the United States. I am a lot better and my doctors are optimistic and my morale is high. I am about to start the second session of chemotherapy Wednesday but I am feeling much better.
Randa Habib: Your health condition has attracted a lot of attention and anticipation inside the country, and speculation aboard. How do you see the future?
King Hussein: Quite honestly, I find all these speculations and nonsensical opinions expressed by some quite strange. These opinions are, in fact, groundless. To start with, no person is immortal and we live for the people and their future. We do not work with only the present in mind, but rather for the decades to come.
Secondly, the situation does not warrant such speculation. In fact, I have made it a point to inform people all over the world of the smallest details of my condition. This stems from my firm belief in transparency and in the fact that people have to appreciate that they are dealing with mortal human beings whose primary purpose in life is to serve them. So, speculation or otherwise, the fact is that as far as the succession is concerned, it rests in the hands of my brother, whom I have chosen over others many years ago, and who has shouldered his responsibilities and performed his duties fully. As for what may transpire after that in the future, this is a subject that we have addressed in the past and there is no justification for raising it now.
All I wish for is that the Hashemite family continue to serve and build, and to be a significant factor in uniting people together towards the objective that our fathers and forefathers upheld, and which future generations will uphold after us, God willing. We are all in the service of future generations. All the issues that may be surrounded by speculation or anxiety will have the right answers in the right time. All this talk, in fact, is out of line, coming it seems from many out there whose objective has always been to attack us in some form or another, and to make us appear weaker. The truth is, and I challenge all those who say otherwise, that Jordan is strong, steadfast; its people are united under all circumstances. This is true today and in the future, as it has been proven in the past. Jordan is an impenetrable fort, strong in the full sense of the word. Any views to the contrary have no justification, and all those who wish to speculate otherwise are quite welcome to come forward. Time will prove them wrong.