AMMAN, Jordan – Vice President Dick Cheney got a frosty reception from Jordan's King Abdullah II to any suggestions that the United States move the next phase of the war on terror to Iraq, but the King warmed up to talk about measures to increase peace in the Middle East.
In Amman to meet with the King, Cheney said the United States considers Jordan "a force for peace and against violence in the region," in which Jordan's northeastern border lines Iraq and its western border bumps Israel.
The United States insists that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a menace to the region and the threat he poses by his intention to acquire weapons of mass destruction affects all his neighbors. President Bush named Iraq as a member of an "axis of evil" that includes Iran and North Korea.
At an airport ceremony upon his arrival in Amman, Cheney said America is not announcing any decisions, but stressed that the "Iraqi people and the world would be better off if Saddam wasn't there."
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated the comment when he told a House panel that the United States wants to resume weapons inspections in Iraq but wants Saddam Hussein gone even more.
"Iraq has once again apparently refused — rather strongly in recent days — to allow the inspectors back in. Therefore the sanctions must remain," Powell said. "But the United States also believes that the Iraqi people, the region and the world would be better off if that regime was changed."
But even before Cheney's arrival, Abdullah, whose country sided with Iraq in the Gulf War, told an Arab newspaper, "Any strike in Iraq will have dangerous repercussions on the stability of the whole region and the international effort to combat terrorism."
Senior Bush administration officials say the first phase of the war on terror benefited enormously from the presence of Arab ground troops who were sent from Jordan to Afghanistan to disable land mines and build medical facilities. But the recent remarks of Jordan's king make it clear that kind of help, from his country, will not be forthcoming if phase two includes an attack on Iraq.
Nonetheless, Cheney was welcomed by Abdullah and Jordan's prime minister to the capital Monday, the first stop on a tour that includes trips to Israel, Turkey and nine Arab countries. In Amman he was pressed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Jordan sees as related to the war on terror.
"We continue to believe that stability, peace and security in this region will not be achieved without a viable and secure Palestinian state," said Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb.
King Abdullah himself, who said he thinks there is growing support for a Saudi peace proposal exchanging Arab recognition of Israel for the return of Israeli occupied lands, reportedly delivered the same message during a meeting with Cheney Tuesday night though neither leader spoke to reporters afterward.
At the airport ceremony, Cheney promised that the United States would do all it could to help quell Israeli-Palestinian violence and said it is "fitting that this mission should begin in Jordan" because of the close ties between Jordan and the United States.
Many Arab nations have encouraged the United States to get more involved in ending the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and U.S. commitment to a peace plan may affect support for Iraq.
Cheney is trying to decouple the issues, but is sure the two topics will be discussed in each stop on his 11-nation tour of the region.
"I'm sure they're linked in some minds, but the fact of the matter is, we need effective policies to deal with both situations," Cheney said.
Cheney said he would spend most of his time listening to leaders during his trip, and is mindful of the Arab world's reluctance to move the war on terror to the region.
Turkey, which shares its southern border with Iraq, has also warned the United States that a military strike could destabilize the region. Leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt also oppose a military campaign against Iraq.
Fox News' James Rosen and the Associated Press contributed to this report.