AMMAN, Jordan, April 2 (UPI) -- Jordan's King Abdullah II Wednesday described the U.S.-led war on Iraq as an "invasion" and the Iraqis killed by coalition forces as "martyrs."
The monarch, whose remarks were carried in an interview with the official Jordan News Agency Petra, said he was "in harmony with ourselves and our people in rejecting the invasion of Iraq."
He condemned "the killing of women and children, and we are pained and saddened when we see on television screens the increasing number of innocent civilian Iraqi martyrs."
A father of three children, between the ages of three and seven, the monarch added: "As a father, I feel the pain of every Iraqi family and every Iraqi father."
Abdullah's comments came after 95 prominent Jordanians, including former prime ministers, intelligence chiefs and leading dissidents, delivered a petition to the monarch demanding the government condemn the war on Iraq and declare it "illegal."
It also came as another petition was being passed around for signatures insisting the government-run media describe Iraqis killed as "martyrs" and the war as "aggression" and "invasion."
Abdullah said the petition of prominent personalities represented "Jordanian pluralism that allows society to express its views freely. But there is a common denominator, which is condemning the war."
He also rejected a new Iraqi government that would be imposed on the people, saying the "Iraqi people alone have the right to choose their leaders ... we cannot imagine that a people would accept a leadership imposed from outside and against its will."
He added Jordan was interested in maintaining "our strong brotherly and historic ties with the Iraqi people, now and in the future."
Abdullah denied reports and Iraqi official accusations that U.S. troops were launching attacks from Jordanian territories. He said, "We are in harmony with ourselves and our people in rejecting the invasion, so how could we allow ourselves to be partners in this war, God forbid?"
He also described as "shameful and dangerous" reports that Israeli forces were in Jordan, adding he would never allow such forces "on our land under any circumstances."
Abdullah's comments came as the Shura (consultative) Council of the powerful Islamic Action Front issued a decree saying that allowing U.S. forces on Jordanian territories was a "great sin." The Front, which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the largest opposition party in Jordan.
Sources within the party welcomed the king's comments as being "in harmony with those of his people," but demanded the government "go further and expel the U.S. invading forces from our lands."
The government said there were "several hundred" American soldiers in the country operating three Patriot anti-missile batteries, insisting they were not involved in any of the military operations against Jordan's neighbor.
Meanwhile, Abdullah also ordered state universities to immediately accept more than 3,000 Jordanian students who had been studying in Iraq. In a statement, the Jordanian government said that out of the 3,078 students, the monarch would personally pay the university fees for 598 of them.