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Cohen, king of Jordan talk of military aid

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AMMAN, Jordan -- Defense Secretary William Cohen met with the newly installed king of Jordan on Wednesday to discuss ways of converting a $200 million increase in U.S. military aid into stronger, more mobile ground forces.

Cohen spent 90 minutes with King Abdullah at Amman's hilltop Raghadan Palace, where the two had lunch. Cohen later placed a wreath at the grave site of King Hussein, Abdullah's father, before leaving for Egypt.He arrived here Wednesday after morning meetings in Kuwait with senior Kuwaiti defense officials and the emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah. That stop completed a six-nation tour of U.S. gulf allies.

Kuwait's minister of defense failed to attend a scheduled joint news conference at the Kuwait International Airport before Cohen's departure, and Cohen spoke to reporters alone in a setting that characterized his trip through the gulf states.

Only once during the trip, which included meetings with many senior officials, has any Arab leader appeared publicly with Cohen. And at that appearance Qatar's foreign minister criticized the almost daily U.S. airstrikes on Iraq. While Cohen repeatedly emphasized the warm relations between the United States and its gulf allies, the trip was notable for the lack of reciprocal public statements by Arab leaders.

After meeting Abdullah, Cohen told reporters the United States firmly believes "the Iraqi people will not enjoy the benefits and fruits of peace and prosperity until such time when there is a change in regime."

The U.S. military is taking a series of low-profile steps to improve its own capability for ground combat in the region -- even as the high-profile air battle over northern and southern Iraq thunders on.