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November 03, 2013

Kerry in Cairo at Start of Middle East Trip

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo at the start of an eight-nation trip that is expected to focus on Middle East peace talks, the war in Syria, and negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

A senior administration official says Kerry's talks here with Egyptian civilian and military leaders will stress Washington's interest in a sustainable and inclusive way forward following July's coup against President Mohamed Morsi.

The United States is delaying the delivery of major weapons systems because of violence following the ouster of Egypt's first democratically elected leader.  The senior administration official says delivery of tanks, missiles and attack helicopters could proceed if Egypt shows progress on freedoms of assembly and the press.

Washington also wants to see civil society included in the government, and a draft law on the treatment of non-governmental organizations that meets international standards.

Later, Kerry will meet with Saudi leaders to discuss the political situation in Egypt, possible talks to end Syria's civil war, and negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.  Saudi officials have questioned Iran's sincerity in the talks.  A senior U.S. official says Washington shares Riyadh's concerns about Tehran's nuclear program and its support for groups the United States considers terrorists.

Kerry will visit Poland to talk about trade and investment as well as joint military training.  He will hold meetings in Jordan about the war in Syria and about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.  A senior administration official says Israel's release of Palestinian prisoners is an encouraging step forward, but its continued settlement activities "do not create a positive environment for negotiations."

In the United Arab Emirates Kerry will talk about Syria, Egypt, and Iran.  In Algeria he will take part in a dialogue on security, counter-terrorism programs, investment, and civil society.  In Morocco, Kerry will join talks on trade and U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation funding.