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Jordan's King Abdullah Speaks To Congress

Citing the risks of further delay, Jordan's King Abdullah II said Wednesday the United States must take the lead in creating conditions for a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking to a joint meeting of Congress, Abdullah said that history has shown no progress in Middle East peacemaking is possible without American leadership.

"We look to you to play a historic role," he said, adding that results are needed "not in one year or five years but this year."

"No more bloodshed, no more lives pointlessly taken," Abdullah declared.

He speech, lasting just under a half hour, was delivered in flawless English, with only an occasional aside in Arabic. He was interrupted a number of times by applause.

His remarks were limited almost entirely to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abdullah made no direct reference to Hamas, to the current divisions in the Palestinian leadership or to recent efforts by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to revive peace efforts.

Instead, he spoke of the suffering that both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered. At one point, he lamented "the 40 years of occupation" that he said Palestinians have endured.

"The goal must be a peace in which all sides gain," he said. "There must be a peace in which Israelis will be part of the neighborhood."

His comments on the Middle East issue before his departure for Washington were far more critical of Israel than the ones he delivered on Wednesday.

Last Friday, he said, "The main responsibility (for achieving peace) lies with Israel, which must choose either to remain a prisoner of the mentality of 'Israel the fortress' or to live in peace and stability with its neighbors."

James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, met with Abdullah after the speech and later issued a statement calling the presentation "smart and courageous."

"It was clear he aggravated some opponents of peace, but what was also clear was that he emboldened and strengthened many in Congress and many more in both the Arab-American and Jewish American communities in their resolve to make peace a reality," Zogby said.

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