Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 27

Kremlin officials yesterday denied reports that President Boris Yeltsin had cut short his surprise visit to Jordan for health reasons. The Russian leader, who defied his doctors in attending the funeral of the late King Hussein, spent less than six hours in Amman and another eight in transit. Yeltsin reportedly looked well upon his arrival in Jordan but appeared to lose strength during the visit–needing the help of aides to climb the stairs at the Raghadan Palace in Amman.

While in the Jordanian capital Yeltsin expressed his condolences to King Abdullah and held what were apparently very brief consultations with a host of international leaders, including U.S. President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. As other world leaders filed past Hussein’s coffin, however, Yeltsin was seen leaving for the airport. Prior to his departure, Yeltsin apparently told Itar-Tass that his health was fine. He was also said to have thanked King Abdullah for amending protocols in order to allow him to be among the first of the world leaders to bid farewell to the late king (AP, Itar-Tass, Russian agencies, February 8).

According to a Kremlin spokesperson in Moscow, Yeltsin’s talks with Chirac focused on diplomatic effort to reach a settlement of the Kosovo conflict. The two were reported also to have discussed a planned visit by Yeltsin to France but no date for the visit was set. Yeltsin’s conversation with Clinton was said to have dealt with talks planned for March between Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and U.S. Vice President Al Gore (Reuters, February 8). Russian officials presented Yeltsin’s trip to Jordan as proof that the Russian president remains active in foreign affairs and as an indication of Moscow’s continuing diplomatic role in the Middle East.