Summit In Amman

A big Middle East economic development summit has been set for Amman, Jordan, next Oct. 29-31. It is supposed to follow up on last year's extravaganza in Casablanca, where there was much talk but few deals. On the agenda will be a $5 billion to $10 billion Middle East development bank, which the Israelis, Jordanians, and Egyptians want and the U.S. supports. But the Europeans think the bank is unnecessary, and the Gulf Arabs don't want to put up the money. Nevertheless, U.S. sources are confident that funding will be lined up from the U.S., Europe, Japan, and regional donors. Joint Jordanian-Israeli projects such as irrigation and hydroelectric schemes for the Jordan Rift Valley may have the inside track for funding because the Palestinian areas are so unstable.

But plans to build a pipeline from Aqaba on the Red Sea to the Dead Sea are also controversial. Many say the $2 billion to $4 billion price tag is too high, and the project will be yet another Middle Eastern white elephant.