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US Senator Tours Middle East - 2002-01-15

Senator John Kerry, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is touring the Middle East in hopes of finding a way to advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. After stops in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Kerry met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Following his meeting with President Mubarak, Senator Kerry said tensions in the Middle East, as a result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "may be nearing a boiling point."

"I think it is a very critical time and we need leadership at a major level in order to try to prevent this from spiraling out of control," he said. "It is as dangerous as I have seen it in many years. I have been on the foreign relations committee for 18 years now, and it is my sense this is as critical a moment in the effort to make peace as we have seen, perhaps, since one of the wars."

In addition to discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Senator Kerry said he also talked with the Egyptian leader about the U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, which is the second largest recipient, after Israel, of U.S. assistance.

Prior to meeting Mr. Mubarak, the senator had been in Jordan and Saudi Arabia for talks with leaders of both countries about prospects for peace in the Middle East. From Egypt, he goes on to Israel. "I will communicate in Israel, to the leaders there, the views of King Abdallah, of Crown Prince Abdallah [of Saudi Arabia] and the president of Egypt," said John Kerry. "And those views, I think, are important to the consideration of those in Israel who are trying to make decisions about this process."

Mr. Kerry said after his stop in Israel, he will return to the United States and assess ways the peace process can be advanced. The senator suggested his views may be met with some disagreement from those who he said were "very directly concerned," although he declined to specify who those people might be.