Bassem Awadallah, Jordan’s Minister of Planning

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, May 21, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: There was a time when Jordan’s late King Hussein called Saddam Hussein an, "Arab patriot." That was then. This is now. His son, King Abdullah II, was instrumental in helping American troops in the latest Iraqi war, going so far as to allow our soldiers to set up camps on Jordan’s border with Iraq. The cooperation doesn’t end there and likely won’t end there. With us now, Jordan’s minister of planning, Bassem Awadallah.

Minister, thank you very much for coming.


CAVUTO: You know, there are many in this country, Minister, who are saying, you guys are our true friends, and that we should be paying more attention to you, and less attention to Saudi Arabia. What do you say?

AWADALLAH: Well, we believe that the United States has been a good friend for many in the region. Jordan is one of the countries that has special relations with the United States. And we are proud of the relations that we have with the United States at the political, military and economic level. We also believe that the United States has vital national interests in the Middle East. And that at the end of the day the United States respects the integrity and the independence of all its allies in the Middle East. Having said this, there are values which and bind us together, such as democracy, such as freedom, such as the private sector and its dominance in leading our economies. These are common values that we aspire to build upon and to enhance the strategic ties that we have with the United States.

CAVUTO: But it’s those very ties, as I’m sure you are aware of, Minister, that has even Al Qaeda, kind of even putting your country under its gun. One of the top officials there, al-Zawahiri, indicating today that these people threaten just about everybody, referring to countries like yours and Arab governments in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, going to say, I probably can’t even remember the whole list. So he is saying that you are part, I guess, of a cabal that destroys the Muslim world. What do you say?

AWADALLAH: Well, Jordan’s position against terrorism, including Al Qaeda, has been steadfast and has been very explicit. Since the early ‘90s, after September 11, we were the first country to come out in total support against the terrorists, and with the United States, in its war against terrorism. Now.

CAVUTO: How does that jive, sir, with your people? I mean, the overwhelming majority of your people were against the U.S. going into Iraq. Some are quite frankly very sympathetic to Al Qaeda in your country. Is that a tough line for you?

AWADALLAH: I do not believe so. I do not believe that you will find a single Jordanian who condones terrorist activities which are designed against civilians anywhere in the world, be it in Saudi Arabia, or be it in the World Trade Center, or be it in Casablanca, or anywhere else around the world.

Now, with respect to the war against Iraq, you will find that many people around the world were not for the war, not because they were with Saddam Hussein. But because people are against warfare and against the use of military action. So that was - that is a different story than the war against terrorism. You will find that in the war against terrorism, most people, most Muslims, who really believe in a tolerant, humane form of Islam, will not condone the murder of innocent civilians anywhere around the world.

CAVUTO: OK. Bassem Awadallah, thank you very much.

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