updated 5/7/2005 3:15:36 PM ET 2005-05-07T19:15:36

Jordan’s King Abdullah II vowed Saturday to do all he can to “quash” terrorists targeting neighboring Iraq as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani made his first foreign visit since becoming president last month.

The Iraqi leader’s visit to Amman marked an improvement in relations between the two neighboring countries. The ties deteriorated after a Feb. 28 suicide bombing south of Baghdad that killed 125 people was erroneously blamed on a Jordanian.

The two leaders met for 25 minutes at a hilltop palace, and Abdullah told Talabani that he will return Jordan’s ambassador to Baghdad — a move that would upgrade ties between both countries. Jordan recalled its envoy before Saddam Hussein was ousted in April 2003 and it has since been represented by a charge d’affaires.

“We stand ready to return our ambassador at the soonest possible moment, especially as the Iraqi side is prepared to provide security to the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad,” Abdullah said, according to a Royal Palace statement.

'Jordan stands by Iraq'
Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad was targeted in August 2003 by a car bomb blast that killed 19 people. After the attack on Hillah, south of Baghdad, was erroneously blamed on a Jordanian earlier this year, Iraqis also stormed the diplomatic mission in the Iraqi capital and raised an Iraqi flag on its roof.

Many Iraqis have complained that Jordan and other neighboring countries have done too little to prevent militants from entering their country to attack U.S.-led soldiers and allied Iraqi security forces.

But Abdullah said he was determined to fight terrorists targeting the kingdom’s eastern neighbor.

“We will not tolerate any movement from any direction that would harm the Iraqi people and its political leadership,” he said. “Jordan stands by Iraq in all its power and determination to fight terrorism, quash terrorists and those who stand behind them and finance them.”

Talabani received a red-carpet welcome at an Amman air base as he began his two-day visit. King Abdullah, Queen Rania and top government officials met Talabani and his wife, He’h Roh.

Talabani emerged from his meeting with Abdullah declaring relations were “excellent and are getting better” before security escorts whisked him away.

Assets unfrozen
He also held talks with Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran on facilitating Iraqi trade through the kingdom and unfreezing Iraqi assets estimated at $500 million, the official Jordanian Petra news agency reported. It said talks would continue on Iraq’s frozen assets at a later stage.

Talabani was later quoted as saying by the Jordanian royal palace that terrorism is an “ordeal” threatening the “whole region,” not only Iraq. He said assistance from neighboring countries is “essential” for the war on terror to succeed.

Talabani was accompanied by Iraq’s ambassador, Ata Abdul-Wahab, who resumed his post in Amman on Saturday after being recalled following the diplomatic spat over the Hillah bombing.

The rift was sparked when the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad reported that Raed Mansour al-Banna carried out the suicide bombing but later issued a correction, saying it was not known where al-Banna carried out an assault.

Al-Banna’s family and the Jordanian government also said he carried out a different suicide bombing in Iraq and the terrorist group al-Qaida in Iraq ultimately claimed responsibility for the Hillah bombing.

Iraq was Jordan’s largest trade partner and only oil supplier before the U.S.-led war. Jordan also hosts training for Iraqi police and army cadets under a two-year U.S. sponsored program to bolster Iraq’s security capacity. Nearly half of the 32,000 Iraqi recruits have graduated.

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