Sunday, March 16, 2008
Cheney in Middle East to Discuss Regional Issues
"16/03/2008 US Vice President Dick Cheney leaves for the Middle East Sunday, hoping to help revive the battered “peace process” and get Arab allies like Saudi Arabia to do more to curb what they call “Iran's influence” in Iraq.
With just ten months left in US President George W. Bush's term, Cheney is expected to seek support for confronting Tehran over its nuclear program and push Israel and the Palestinians to fulfill past promises for peace.
His 10-day trip comes as the US presidential race is heating up and the world prepares to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, which falls March 19 in Washington and March 20 in Baghdad.
The political unrest in Lebanon, the situation in Syria, the violence in Gaza, and sky-high oil prices will all come up as Cheney visits Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, and Turkey, top aide John Hannah said Friday. "It's a very long list and rich agenda," said Hannah, the vice president's national security adviser. "He has quite deep relationships, and personal relationships, with a number of leaders in those countries."
Cheney was not expected to press Saudi King Abdullah too much to boost oil output, or push OPEC to do so, in the face of sky-high oil prices that have fueled a bitter debate ahead of the November 4 US elections. Instead, the US vice president will push that staunch US ally to step up formal ties with the fledgling government in Iraq, a step an unnamed US official directly tied to efforts to contain regional powerhouse Iran.
The vice president is due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials and, separately, Palestiniann president Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to push both sides on the talks the two sides agreed to restart at a November conference in Annapolis, Maryland......"