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Vice President Visits Israel

Vice President Visits Israel

Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip throughout the Middle East last week found him in Israel on Easter — he joined thousands of pilgrims at a service in Jerusalem — but his visit there was no holiday.
During his three days in Israel, Cheney met with Israeli and Palestinian officials, voiced the Bush administration’s continued support for the Jewish state, urged all sides in the Middle East peace process to make further concessions and criticized two belligerent governments in the region.
“It is clearly a difficult situation, in part, because I think it’s true, there’s evidence, that Hamas is supported by Iran and Syria and that they’re doing everything they can to torpedo the peace process,” Cheney said before heading to Turkey, the final stop on his 10-day mission.
Cheney’s visit was designed to support the faltering peace process, part of the administration’s effort to achieve a comprehensive agreement before Bush leaves office next January.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had earlier urged the United States to pressure Israel to seal a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security … we must not and will not ignore darkening shadows of the situation in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and Iran, and the threats these areas pose to Israel,” the vice president assured his Israeli hosts. “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and unshakable, as is Israel’s right to protect itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other attacks from forces dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”
Cheney’s itinerary in Israel included meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, top, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and representatives of the army and Mossad. He also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, inset.
His second meeting with Olmert was shrouded in mystery — the prime minister’s office did not brief the press afterwards — and led to speculation that the focus was on how to stop the buildup of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Israel is preparing for visits from other high-ranking administration officials — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives Saturday night.

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