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Obama to pay first visit to Israel as president


14:09, February 06, 2013

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will pay first visit to Israel as president, announced the White House on Tuesday, stopping short of disclosing more details regarding the trip.

The White House also stressed that as a matter of fact, Obama planned to make the visit since he began his first term of presidency in January 2009.

"The start of the president's second term and the formation of a new Israeli government offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Syria," said the National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

He added that details of the trip, including the schedule of the travel, will be announced later.

Israeli media, however, reported that the visit would start on March 20.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama would also visit the West Bank and Jordan during the trip which is believed to be focused on an array of thorny regional issues, including the Iranian nuclear standoff, the ongoing crisis in Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Analysts said the visit indicates that Obama intends to pay more attention to the Middle East in his second term in order to prevent turmoil in the region from spinning out of control.

The rather hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been threatening to use preemptive strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. However, Obama insists that there is still time and space for diplomacy, refusing to give a clear red line. The upcoming visit could serve as an opportunity for the two leaders to mend the notoriously frosty relations between them.

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