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Bush in Kuwait for Talks on Middle East Security, Iran


U.S. President George W. Bush is in Kuwait, the next stop on his visit to the Middle East. He spent three days in Israel and the Palestinian territories, trying to advance the peace process. His secretary of state says, as he tours the Gulf states, the agenda will turn more toward regional security issues and Iran. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

President Bush met with Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. White House officials said the Kuwaiti ruler thanked the president for pushing for solutions on critical Middle East issues.

The president's tour of the Gulf states over the next few days is expected to focus on Iran, which has recently begun warming relations with the Gulf Arab nations that are traditional allies of the United States. Mr. Bush will also continue to try to build support for his Middle East peace initiative launched in Maryland in November.

On the plane from Jerusalem to Kuwait City, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters the agenda would be shifting toward regional challenges, including both Sunni and Shiite extremism and "the threats that we've seen in the Gulf."

Kuwaiti media have said the Emir would emphasize his concern that any U.S. military strike on Iran would destabilize the region.

Rice also said it is unrealistic to expect Arab states to quickly warm to Israel as the post-Annapolis peace negotiations continue. She said there will be no "blinding flash" of change, but she sees the process as moving forward. She believes it was "a big step" for Arab states to attend the Annapolis conference.

Before leaving Jerusalem, Mr. Bush visited Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial. He re-lit a memorial flame and placed a wreath over a stone slab covering the ashes of concentration camp victims.

Mr. Bush said Yad Vashem is a sobering reminder that evil exists and must be resisted.

"I was most impressed that people in the face of horror and evil would not forsake their God, and in the face of unspeakable crimes against humanity, brave souls - young and old - stood strong for what they believe," he said.

While in Kuwait, Mr. Bush is expected to be briefed on the latest developments in Iraq by the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraus. Mr. Bush then visits Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt before leaving the region next week.

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