President Ford–King Hussein memcon (August 16, 1974)

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August 16, 1974. ARC #1552753

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1481454President Ford–King Hussein memcon1974Gerald Ford, Hussein of Jordan, Henry Alfred Kissinger and Zaid al-Rifai





JORDAN: His Majesty King Hussein
Prime Minister Zaid Rifai
U. S. The President
Secretary of State Kissinger
Thomas R. Pickering, U. S. Ambassador to Jordan

(note taker)

PLACE: White House

TIME: 11:30 A.M. - 12:30 P.M., August 16, 1974

SUBJECT: Middle East Negotiations

--- During press photographs:

The President: Your Majesty, I am very pleased to have you here in the White House. We have been looking forward to your visit. As you know, I am not yet settled here, but I expect to be moving in next week.

King Hussein: I am very happy to be here, Sir, and very proud to be the first head of state to visit you in the new Administration. I know how busy you have been and am doubly honored that you have been able to receive us. How have you found the White House?

The President: We like it very much and will keep many things just the way they are. It is beautifully decorated and we have been very impressed by the upstairs rooms.


King Hussein: It is nice to see you looking so well, Sir.

The President: I try to keep in good shape.


Secretary Kissinger: I want to warn you now, Mr. President against riding with King Hussein in his helicopter.

The President: I understand you could fly with the Blue Angels'

acrobatic team and probably out-distance them in doing their stuff.

King Hussein: Secretary Kissinger was very kind to be one of my passengers.

Secretary Kissinger: I became religious very quickly. He loops the loop in the helicopter. Nancy made the mistake of asking him if he could fly lower.

The President: When you are in an airplane there is only one boss--the pilot.

The Secretary: Seriously, Mr. President, Amman is the Arab capital where I always feel very much at home.

King Hussein: I hope you will promise to come and see us again soon. We look forward always to having you with us. In addition, Mr. President, we had talked during my last visit with you about having you visit us. I hope very much that somehow you can come to Jordan.

The President: I would love to do it and we had earlier talked about trying to do something this year. I know you understand and there are new circumstances. But I am a man who likes to keep his promises. I regret that it may be some time, however, before I am able to do so.

King Hussein: We very much look forward, Sir, to your visit--as soon as Secretary Kissinger solves all the problems in the area.

The President: I appreciated receiving your /very warm communication. It was especially nice and I want to thank you for it. I have been particularly fortunate in some time ago forming a long friendship with Secretary Kissinger. He will be continuing to work on the problems in the area, and I can assure you that our basic policy lines will continue.

I count it fortunate, too, that we were able to meet when you were here three or four months ago. I know of your long friendships in this country, and I value this meeting. I hope that we can expand our relationship and meet periodically. I have been working with Secretary Kissinger extensively on the problems of the Middle East. I know they have existed for a long time and that they are extremely difficult problems to solve.

King Hussein: I want to ahnk thank you for the opportunity I had to meet with you several months ago. It was a great pleasure and I am proud to consider you as a friend. Our hearts and our prayers are with you for your great work in leading this country and the people of what is the greatest nation in the world. We have always counted on our close friendship with the United States which has acted in the interests of humanity in its efforts in our part of the world. We wish you every success in the days ahead.

The President: It is hard to believe that only a week ago at this time I was about to be sworn in. We are very happy that you can be here and again it is a happy occasion for me that you ate are the first head of state to visit Washington in the new Administration.

Secretary Kissinger has been updating me on events in the area. We have discussed the issues which are important to you and to us. I would like to discuss with you questions of substance.

Secretary Kissinger: I think it would be very helpful if His Majesty could sum up where he thinks we are in the Middle East and how we might move forward and how Jordan fits into the picture, especially on where we go from here.

King Hussein: As you know, Sir, we have taken the first few important steps with the two disengagement agreements which have been reached. We think it is most important for us to move forward and continue the momentum toward a just and durable peace. Very difficult steps lie ahead and except for the firm help and interested concern of the United States we would have doubts about ever getting such a peace. We are gratified by your statements that you will persevere with your present policies.

However, we have only taken the first steps and the danger is still there. We have therefore to keep up If we look at the momentum or lose ground and face serious crises. If we look at the realities we have the two two disengagement agreements--Egypt and Syria.

As for Egypt, we believe that President Sadat and the government and the people of Egypt in the future will want to look inwards in an attempt to solve their most pressing problems. They have a very poor economy and their people have great needs. We believe they are not interested in carrying out further adventures.

This seems not to be the case with Syria, and especially considering the tremendous input of arms which comes from which the Soviet Union, it which is, of course, heavily supplying Iraq. The fact that the Syrian front with Israel is a limited area of conflict concerns us and we judge that the Syrians may well wish to move militarily against Israel if they cannot achieve progress. If Syrian military activity occurs they may well embarrass Egypt into taking military action in support of them. This is very much our view concern also. We believe there is a real danger of Syria beginning again, possibly with a war of attrition. We now have the ceasefire and a UN presence in the Golan Heights, but that is only a temporary situation. If Syria were to begin again we face a real problem as either the Syrians or the Israelis might wish to attack across our territory.

As for Jordan, we want to play our role. For years we have had as our objective a just peace in the area. It would give to the generations to follow on a better life which is the most important thing we can leave them. We hope for steps to be taken beginning with an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordanian territory which the Israelis occupied in 1967. As you know, we have hoped that they would withdraw a reasonable distance from the Jordan River, we have suggested 10 or 12 kilometers. But there on have been problems /on all sides. Progress already achieved makes further progress toward withdrawal even more necessary.

The Jordan River is not much of a military obstacle between Jordan and Israel. It is a kind of psychological barrier between the East Bank and the Palestinians. Achieving an early disengagement for us is a test of whether we get involved or not. We would like to know, Sir, where we stand now. If we are not to be involved, we are prepared to turn over our responsibilities to the PLO and let them try to deal with the problem.

Another set of issues for us is the PLO. There has always been a dilemma in trying to define where who are the Palestinians. We have large numbers of them in our country on the East Bank and on the West Bank and in our cities. We have dealt with them differently from the way other Arab states have. We have granted them nationality and given those from Gaza passports so that they can have an opportunity to work and even go outside Jordan. Their children can travel to receive an education. They can go to the Gulf and work there to support their families. They need to have an identity.

The President: Have you made them your citizens?

King Hussein: Yes, they are Jordanians.

Secretary Kissinger: Including those working in the Gulf?

King Hussein: Yes, most of them there are our citizens.

Other Palestinians not from the West Bank or from Gaza are left as refugees from the Jewish areas which even under the UN partition plan would have been belonged to the Israelis.

Some of these people are supporters of the Palestinian organizations which represent all the contacts contradictions prsent present in the modern world. The majority of Palestinians we believe want a solution. All of us have encouraged them to be part of the scene. We, of course, want to have the disengagement which will be the beginning of an Israeli withdrawal.

Our choice of continuing our responsibility for the West Bank is the most difficult for us. First, it would be far easier to get the PLO to take it on. However, they are an unknown and dangerous quarter quantity and there are dangers in turning it over to the PLO for both Israel and the Arabs, and therefore we do what we can. We believe that we must move fast and if we do not do so we are incurring serious risks.

The end result for us is to get back to 1967 borders with and to achieve the return to Arab sovereignty of the Arab portions of Jerusalem. It could then become a city of peace with the rights of all preserved and recognized. It would not be an Israeli city or an Arab city exclusively, but all religions--Moslem, Christian and Jews could meet there and it would be a solution satisfactory for all time.

In addition, in any settlement we strongly support the principle of reciprocity for any of the details.

On Geneva, we believe the results of any agreement we reach should be boru brought into Geneva for signature.

The Secretary: Your Majesty knows that I will not die unfulfilled if no action is taken in Geneva during my lifetime.

The President: Are there other results which you would like to see from our meetings?

King Hussein: Our principal question now is are we in for disengagmeent or not? We are perfectly prepared to stay on the East Bank. If the Arabs want us to we will remove ourselves from the Palestinian problem. We believe the PLO should be the representative of the Palestinians and in dealing with matters which are beyond not our concern. On the West Bank, we do not believe they are the sole representatives of the Palestinians. We do not claim ourselves to be the sole representatives of the Palestinians. They can deal with questions arising between beyond the West Bank, compensation, settlement of claims and Palestinian rights, etc. Symbolically they should be there and involved in the process. In all of this we are willing to cooperate and coordinate with the other Arab states.

We If we do not move ahead with disengagement, the Syrians have threatened and are likely to become more adventurous. We believe there is not much time available to us. We are faced with growing political pressures and military pressures and unless we are able to meet them we have strong reason to believe they could become overwhelming. Syria or Israel could get involved in the conflict again, and in that event it would be most difficult for Egypt to stay out. Failure to make progress encourages the Syrians to use force.

As as our own military position is concerned, Sir, we discussed this with our friends in the Pentagon following the October war. As a result, we came up with a fresh program to keep up with the tremendous input of armaments to our neighbors. Our proposal was for two times as much in money as you indicated the United States could support.

Secretary Kissinger: The President knows the Congress extremely well and the constraints they have put us under. It is a strategy tragedy what the Soviets are pouring into the area militarily.

The President: It is true in other areas beyond the Middle East that Congress has in the last two or three years made deep cuts in our assistance. It all comes out of our involvement in Viet-Nam and it operates like the swings of a pendulum. In the past the President and the Secretary of State had only to ask and the Congress would make the funds available. There has been a public reaction to this which is reflected in the Congress. Whether the President likes it or not this is how the Congress feels. We are looking working actively i on (illegible text) this question. It has been getting better this last week. I cannot make absolute promises to you, but I can assure you that we will take advantage of all of the changes which occur. In the long run we cannot give you any specific dollar figures, but we will do our very best.

King Hussein: What you are trying to get now from the Congress met half of our minimum needs and as you know, part of this is Foreign Military Sales Credit. Recently rising prices have hit us and hurt very badly. For example, one improved Hawk air defense battalion now costs of over $100 million. Even on items wh
ere we had agreed on the price, cables come in saying the prices continue to go up. As a result, even with the funds we are asking for, if the Congress gives them to us, much less (illegible text) will be available.

Eventually, it will mean we will arrive at a standstill. We need to be strong to negotiate withdrawal and to be moderate and reasonable. Otherwise, our options diminish and we lose the positions which present realities have opened for us.

The President: I am fully cognizant of these problems. I spent 12 years as a member of the Defense, CIA and foreign aid subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. This is a long and beneficial background for me so I understand not only that these are critical but also that they are programs of great benefit to our own policy. Jordan should be able to benefit from these programs. I have the impression that in Congress there is no specific group opposed to Jordan.

King Hussein

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, that is true, and we have doubled our program for Jordan this year over last year and it seems at this point to be in good shape.

King Hussein: I talked this morning with members of committees from the House and the Senate. Their reaction was very good and I hope very much that it helps.

Our own economy, I believe, is on the verge of a take-off. In two to three years I hope we can overcome our problems. We hope to make progress with agriculture and minerals. Our phosphates have increased enormously in price, and we want to expand our production two or three times. We have copper and we are working on its development. We want to go ahead looking for oil and we have quantities of oil shale already discovered. With all of this development I think we can be on our own. It is the interim period which is difficult and we need help to carry us over.

As you know, too, we have been working on support from the other Arabs. On the military side we have instructors in the Gulf and an engineer even company in Oman. Our friends here often refer us to the oil-rich countries for support. But there is not the degree of maturity among them required for the kind of support we need. They in turn refer us back to you for help.

We had an interesting example of this in the last day or so. I have been in close touch with North Yemen. We have just gotten a recent message from them. They had asked us earlier for military instructors, officers and other ranks, to replace the Soviets. They approached the Saudis for financial help in buying new equipment from the Western countries to replace our their Soviet equipment. When the Saudis heard that Jordanians were to come as instructors, they suggested that North Yemen instead take Pakistanis. Our friends in North Yemen replied that they had no one who could speak English well enough to understand the Pakistanis. The Saudis then suggested they try Egypt. The Yemeni response was to say they had already had past bitter experience with the Egyptians and that the Egyptians do not know U. S. equipment well enough to help Yemen. They would like to have the Jordanians. We have just received word, however, that as a result of what North Yemen believes is a real threat from South Yemen, they would be back in touch with the Soviets and the Chinese. They are asking the Soviets to provide North Yemen with the same amount of equipment that the Soviets provide South Yemen. We might have lost a real chance here.

Secretary Kissinger: We will talk to Roy Atherton and see if there is something we can do here, Mr. President.

King Hussein: Some of our friends have been concerned by the high level of foreign exchange which we hold in Jordan. This provides our currency cover which we need to maintain the stability of our economy. We have drawn it down, but we do not feel we can safely draw it down further without raising a serious problem for our economy.

The President: Do you have a serious inflation problem?

Prime Minister Rifai: We are starting to have one. We are an importing economy. Oil price increases have been reflected back to us as increases in imported commodities produced in the U.S. and Britain.

The President: Then you have phosphates and potash and copper which will produce income for you.

Prime Minister Rifai: We have only phosphates. The others are there but we have to develop the potential. We have a serious balance of trade deficit which we hope in the future can be offset by these mineral developments.

King Hussein: Our most serious problem is political. We want to know what we should do next.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, we will be having a working lunch following this meeting and we will go into detail/s with His Majesty on this question which we cannot cover here.

King Hussein: We welcome any suggestions from you. We are proud of the close cooperation which we have always enjoyed with the United States. We are also very happy to see so many of our friends from our area of the world now coming here for visits for the first time this year.

Secretary Kissinger: It is fantastic to me to think that in August 1974 -- in only one year -- so many Foreign Ministers from the Arab countries are coming here.

You all know Saqqaf. He is not of the mould mold of your Majesty. The last time he came here when his plane was landing the coffee machine exploded. He was lucky. He thought the Israelis had gotten him! They had to pull him out from under the seat of the airplane. It took thirty-six hours for him to calm him down.

Prime Minister Rifai: We all saw on TV the fact that he actually forgot what country he represents.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, it was in the final statement during that trip.

The President: The explosion must have made a large noise.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, they really did have to pull him out from under the airplane seat.

On an earlier trip here you never would would never believe the Alphonse and Gaston routine which he and Fahmy went through. Four heads of state sent Fahmy and Saqqaf here to make a joint demarche. Both spent hours maneuvering to see the President separately before delivering the joint demarche. I took them both to the hotel. Saqqaf insisted I go to his room first. Then he wouldn't let me go in order to keep me from seeing Fahmy. Finally he iniss insisted on seeing me to the door of the hotel and into the car. I actually had to go out and drive around the block in order to get back in to see Fahmy. He wanted Fahmy to think I had been negotiating with him. It was forty-eight hours to get them together for the President. They both insisted on seeing him separately to speak frankly with him before they would agree to see him jointly.

Prime Minister Rifai: I know, that's just the way Fahmy has been with us.

The President: Secretary Kissinger and I have spent a good bit of time lately focussing on foreign affairs problems, but particularly on the Middle East. Now, then, I would like to assure you, just as I made clear in my speech on Monday night, that we will continue the policy we have pursued in the past up to now. I can assure you that what I said I really meant. We have in Secretary Kissinger a strong, able, dedicated, wise, and effective Secretary of State. We will work in tandem and keep the momentum going. Any break now would be an invitation to those who want to destroy progress. How we continue the momentum Secretary Kissinger will work out as we go. But our program is dedicated to keeping up the momentum and hopefully arriving at our objectives which today remain as they were under President Nixon.

Secretary Kissinger: We are according very high priority to Jordan. We fully agree that strong support will be given. This will not be simply moral support as we talked about it in Aqaba. We took no position then and it will take some hard pressing to move the Israelis. We are prepared now to do this. To make progress we will be required to undertake a major diplomatic effort. At lunch we will discuss the staging and timing of these efforts.

One reason we will have to be most careful about the staging is our domestic situation. We are not going to have a comfortable time but we must avoid confrontation with pressure-groups. We need four weeks to get the President pressure-groups lined up so that we are not assailed from all directions.

The President: We are sure you are familiar with these grups which represent business and labor and all the other various groups and interests in this country. Last week I began the process of rebuilding our relations with these groups. We began with labor. As we go on in the fight here against inflation, we cannot exclude labor. Something also has to be done with the governors, the mayors, and the county governments. This is the time for us to build cooperation. Thus far, the reaction has been very good and we will not forget our friends overseas in the process.

King Hussein: I thank you very much.

The President: We will work out the staging in the context of the help which we require at home and abroad.

Secretary Kissinger: I hope His Majesty will not cut loose the West Bank. There is a deep interest in the area in the Palestinian question and it is a hard and difficult issue for us. Once cut loose, the Palestinians could turn on Jordan as well as on Israel. It is a very explosive question. Your Majesty showed great heroism in taking on the fedayeen in 1970. It would be in our judgment a great mistake to give the radicals on the East BAnk any great encouragement.

The President: I am sure they respect your strong position.

King Hussein: It was really for me a question of lawlessness on the one hand and law-and-order on the other. There were Jordanians and Palestinians on both sides of the issue.

Secretary Kissinger: Our sense of the issue, Mr. President, is that His Majesty could and would have wide support for his position. If we can get some progress then the question will become a debate among the Arab states with His Majesty in a strong position. Traditional support already exists for his views and would probably then increase.

King Hussein: I approach this question, sir, with a high degree of confidence and am prepared to see the full exercise of self-determination for the Palestinians fully free from outside pressures. This would happen after Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and could not take place except under international supervision -- I specifically exclude Arab supervision.

The President: Your Majesty, do you feel confident you will be able to keep the West Bank under those conditions?

King Hussein: Yes, but the options are really there as far as I am concerned. They can have independence if they want it -- there would be two states -- or unification with Jordan, or federation. We would want some form of international supervision of the choice.

The President: United Nations supervision.

King Hussein: Certainly not the Arabs, that would really guarantee the imposition of a position the PLO on the West Bank.

The President: Do you receive any information that there was is a consolidation of Palestinian leadership taking place?

King Hussein: No, sir. The mass of Palestinians is waiting to see who will take the next step. If the Jordanians do so they will move one way, if not, they will move the other direction. As you know, we can stay out.

Prime Minister Rifai: It depends, Mr. President, on which PLO leadership you are talking about. Those in Beirut are certainly not coming together. However, on the West Bank we have as close ties as anyone. Our own members of Parliament live there and come to Amman for Parliamentary sessions in which they participate fully. We pay the civil servants on the West Bank, the teachers, the police, etc. One half of our Cabinet in Amman is composed of Palestinians.

King Hussein: We have more Palestinians in our armed forces than the entire PLO has under arms.

Prime Minister Rifai: The combined armed forces of all the Palestinians do not exceed more than 5,000 men.

The President: What is the total population of Palestinians on the West Bank?

Prime Minister Rifai: There are 750,000 Palestinians on the West Bank and 850,000 on the East Bank.

King Hussein: Yes, there are 1.5 million in the entire Kingdom.

Prime Minister Rifai: We still do a great deal to administering projects on the West Bank. We give loans to mayors and municipalities. In the event of Israeli withdrawal it is quite possible that most of the people will look to us. They may well want to have a larger say than before (illegible text) in running the country and the economy. I don't believe, however, that they will opt for independence.

The President: How can you be sure they would choose to be part of Jordan in a plebiscite.

King Hussein: We do not claim we represent all of the Palestinians. However, the East Bank and the West Bank came together by popular feeling. We are prepared to accept the results of a plebiscite but the one thing we cannot accept is the PLO being imposed on the West Bank.

The easiest way for us would be to stay out, to leave responsibility for the West Bank to the others. But we will do what we can.

Secretary Kissinger: If you stay out, the PLO will move into the West Bank and the groups in Beirut will try to take it over. The end result will be to raise again the tensions and difficulties in the area and perhaps even to have them move on the East Bank.

Prime Minister Rifai: These organizations cannot really get there. We and the Israelis keep them out. The Israeli occupation will be prolonged and it will then deter momentum toward peace. We are ready and able to play our role, but we must agree on how to move and when.

Secretary Kissinger: These are major questions. Some of the the ideas which we discussed with /the Prime Minister could be made compatible with our objectives. Moving early will be extremely difficult. His Majesty has negotiated directly and he knows that no great progress can be made rapidly. We consider that there will be substantial problems with the staffing and timing of whatever situation.

For the future we face two problems--what to do about Egypt and Israel and what to do about Jordan and Israel. On the first we believe the issues are easier--it is a question of four weeks, not nine--a relatively short period. For Jordan we are prepared to move ahead in a very active way. The difficult question is the one of timing and how to handle the negotiations.

Prime Minister Rifai: His Majesty has had over 500 hours of negotiation with Mrs. Meir. We just added it all up. It probably beats Henry' s record. It has been a most difficult question. He has flown at night in helicopters, met at sea in little boats, and in tents along the coast. It has involved great hazard and we really have gotten nowhere.

The President: Did she fly with you in your helicopter?

King Hussein: No.

Secretary Kissinger: But she is very tough and she is full of the ideas of the last generation.

King Hussein: The new Prime Minister has impressed me very much. He is of a different generation and has different ideas.

Secretary Kissinger: He is a very intelligent man and we have a very good impression of him from our work with him here.

The President: I knew him as Ambassador here, but I have not seen him since I became Vice President and President, of course. We do have to get them to move. We cannot accept long delays for any reason. If we can work out with you in good faith the staging for this, we will keep faith in keeping the momentum going.

King Hussein: He will have to make lots of changes in Israel.

Secretary Kissinger: You know of course about their domestic situation. Rabin has a one-vote margin in the Parliament. The religious party believes God gave all of the West Bank to Israel. It wants holds ten votes in the Parliament. Rabin only has to lsoe lose one and his government is upset. The Israelis need to have an alibi so that they really can get going. They must be able to say that the President has said they must move. We are doing our utmost to get Rabin over here. He has said he cannot come until December. That is part of the stall they have moved into. We are insisting he arrive here in September before the Jewish holidays.

Prime Minister Rifai: He got a good vote in the Knesset yesterday.

Secretary Kissinger: What was that?

Prime Minister Rifai: There was a Likud motion which would have required a plebiscite on any further territorial changes on the West Bank. The Government opposed and won by a good vote. They seem to be going the right way--toward negotiations.

Secretary Kissinger: Rabin is counting on having Parliamentary elections after negotiation on the West Bank in rather than a plebiscite on the agreement. In Parliamentary elections he can keep the party vote solidly lined up since the elections are held with the parties voting on lists.

Prime Minister Rifai: It also allows him to differentiate between withdrawal on the one hand and the question of the political future of the West Bank on the other.

Secretary Kissinger: We cannot make any promises until Rabin gets here. We will to our utmost to get him here soon.

King Hussein: We cannot remain in an indefinite situation.

Secretary Kissinger: We are talking here about four weeks, not waiting until December.

Prime Minister Rifai: His Majesty expects to see Rabin on his return territory--do you think that is a good idea that they have suggested hold a meeting?

Secretary Kissinger: We can discuss that at lunch.

Prime Minister Rifai: No we can't do that, there are too many people invited who don't know anything about this, at least on our side.

Secretary Kissinger: Why can't we cut lunch down to just the people who know all about it. We can do that on our own side. We need to have a final discussion of all of this. We will work out the general line on this at lunch and include Atherton and Sisco.

King Hussein: Mrs. Meir was always living in the past. She could not see the present and the future. Particularly she could not see the dangers in the future but was always preoccupied with the past. The new people are a different group and have a different grasp of the problem--I mean Rabin and Peres.

The President: Does Allon participate?

King Hussein: Yes, but I don't have a very high opinion of him. We saw him recently, and he is still part of the old school.

Secretary Kissinger: He was the Deputy Prime Minister under Golda.

Prime Minister Rifai: He and Prime Minister Rabin disagreed on questions. They were headed in different directions. He is still very strong on keeping the settlements and is married to his plan. He likes to call himself a "Hashemite Israeli", but he is very inflexible.

King Hussein: Who needs friends like that?

The President: Then we will have some idea when we see Rabin here.

Secretary Kissinger: I will see Dinitz this afternoon. Israeli strategy in all of this is clear. They are trying to delay for domestic reasons. In one week we will inform Your Majesty of what is happening and we will try very hard to get Rabin here in the first or second week of September.

The President: I am very much looking forward to having you and the Queen here to dinner tonight.

King Hussein: It has been a great pleasure to meet with you again, Sir, and we are very much looking forward to being with you at dinner.

NEA:TRPickering:jfc 8/17

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

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