A visiting Utah congressman met King Hussein during a tour to explore the idea of a development bank that could eventually finance joint Arab-Israeli projects.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, told The Associated Press he hopes his idea for a Middle East Development Bank might "push the peace process along" and contribute to stability and prosperity.He said he had met enthusiastic response but also the "almost unanimous judgment you're not going to get any real cooperation between the Arab states, except for Egypt, in anything that involves Israel until you have a peace process going and probably a peace settlement."
He said funding might come from both private and public sources, possibly government-guaranteed bonds.
He conceded it would be "really tough" to find projects in the current atmosphere of tension and technical war between the Israelis and most Arabs.
But he said it might initially be aimed at projects involving informal cooperation.
He said a conference might be held later this year in the United States to help solidify the idea.
Owens also said Thursday that he had proposed earmarking $85 million in U.S. foreign grant aid to Jordan for fiscal 1990 - a significant increase in the current aid level. He said he had found "widespread support for it."
Asked about recent peace developments in the Middle East, which have seen the U.S. open talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Owens said he believes it "is accurate to say a strong majority of congressmen favor talking to the PLO . . . wish the Israelis would."
But he said there was no position "to try to press Israel."
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has vowed never to negotiate with the PLO. All Arab states say the PLO is the sole negotiating voice for the Palestinians.
Owens was due to travel to Israel Friday.