LONDON -- Jordan's King Abdullah II said yesterday his country would be willing to send troops to Iraq, potentially becoming the first Arab state to do so.
The statement marked a major shift in Jordan's policy toward Iraq. Abdullah had initially refused to send troops.
In an interview yesterday with the British Broadcasting Corp. television ''Newsnight" program, Abdullah said he wanted to support Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's interim Iraqi government, which recently assumed control from the US-led coalition.
''I presume that if the Iraqis ask us for help directly, it would be very difficult for us to say no," he said during the interview in London. ''Our message to the president or the prime minister is: Tell us what you want. Tell us how we can help, and you have 110 percent support from us."
There was no immediate reaction to Abdullah's comments, which will probably be welcomed by the US government. It was unclear if the Iraqis would take Abdullah up on his offer. ''If we don't stand with them, if they fail, then we all pay the price," Abdullah said. Abdullah said he had not discussed sending troops with the new Iraqi government.
''I would feel that we are not the right people," he said. ''But at the end of the day, if there is something we can provide, a service to the future of Iraqis, then we'll definitely study that proposal."
Abdullah said he was encouraged by improvements in Iraq's security, but he acknowledged it was still the greatest problem facing the new administration. Jordan is dependent on Iraqi oil.
''I feel optimistic we have strong, courageous leaders in Iraq . . . but the challenges that face them on security is going to be their major problem, and they are going to need everybody's help," he said. Iraq borders both Jordan, which maintains close relations with the United States, and Syria, which opposed the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.