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Vice President Cheney Headed to Middle East

Monday, 10 Mar 2008 09:41 AM

By Stewart Stogel


White House sources confirm that Vice-President Dick Cheney will leave for the Middle East on Sunday on directions of President Bush.

The vice-president will visit Turkey, Israel, the West Bank, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Cheney's hastily arranged mission comes on the heels of an uptick in violence in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Lebanon.

In addition to the violence, the price of oil has risen to unprecedented levels, stalling any recovery in the US economy.

Last week, to the discontent of the White House, OPEC, the international oil cartel, refused to increase oil production, a move that expanded the upward pressure on energy prices.

It also comes one week after the White House led a move in the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment program.

Iran insists the program is peaceful and civilian oriented, Washington and its European allies suspect otherwise.

In Israel and the Palestinian territories, more than 100 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the last two weeks.

In Lebanon, which has been without a president since December, growing domestic unrest sent the naval destroyer USS Cole to "show the flag" just off the Mediterranean coast.

In Iraq, Kurdish separatist activity has resulted in several cross- border incursions by the Turkish Army to the dismay of Washington and Baghdad.

Among the leaders the vice-president will meet include: Israel's Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al'Bu.

President Bush intends to visit the region in May.

He is expected to attend celebrations connected with Israel's 60th anniversary as an independent state.


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