Jordan's King Hussein met Thursday with Secretary of State James A. Baker III after promising unwavering support to American efforts to achieve an Arab-Israeli peace settlement.
The mood at a White House state dinner Wednesday night was overwhelmingly optimistic about the latest developments in the Middle East, with Hussein joining Baker, President Bush and National Security adviser Brent Scowcroft in sharing the upbeat mood."I think there is a better chance for peace," Hussein told reporters after a sumptuous dinner of salmon, duckling and other delicacies.
Moments earlier, Bush said in a toast to his guest: "We can sense an urgency to the quest for peace now. Our task is to use that urgency to seize the moment."
In his toast, Hussein pleased his hosts by pledging to cooperate closely with the United States to achieve a "just, durable and comprehensive peace settlement."
"We will support you in all your endeavors to achieve a comprehensive just and lasting peace," he told Bush.
Because of Jordan's proximity to the West Bank, the administration regards Hussein's support for any peace process as essential for its success.
Administration officials seemed pleased with Hussein's backing. He had seemed content to play a more peripheral role in Middle East diplomacy last summer when he severed Jordan's ties with West Bank Palestinians.
Baker said that the "beginning of a process" is under way as a result of the talks with Hussein and earlier visits here by both Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"It is important to do what he can to advance that process," Baker said.
One new element in the equation is Shamir's proposal for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to select representatives to negotiate with Israel on limited self-government.
Baker left the clear impression that the administration has carefully examined the kinds of issues that such a process would entail.