Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cheney in Riyadh to discuss 'new initiative' with king

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for a day of talks with King Abdullah about what a Saudi adviser described as a "broad new initiative for the Middle East."

Cheney and Abdullah are expected to discuss the war in Iraq as well as other matters including Iran's influence in the region; Syria; Hamas in Gaza and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government, the adviser told CNN.

The visit is the outcome of at least two months of work on the new initiative, the adviser said.

Saudi Arabia and the United States see "eye-to-eye" on all issues, he added. His country will take a leading role in the region and will become "a linchpin of U.S. policy for the next two years."

The vice president will return to Washington on Sunday, the White House said.

Cheney's visit comes two days after what's considered the single worst attack in Iraq since the war began in 2003: an assault widely believed to have been carried out by Sunnis on the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad. That attack killed more than 200 people and wounded 250 others.

In retaliation, enraged Shiites burned people to death and torched Sunni mosques, according to residents.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani postponed his trip on Saturday to Iran for talks with his Iranian counterpart, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on how to stabilize Iraq, after Baghdad's airport was shut down. (Full story)

Tension escalated in Lebanon after the assassination of Cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, an act seen as undermining Siniora's government. (Watch how tensions have soared in the wake of Gemayel's assassination )

Next week President Bush is scheduled to travel to Amman, Jordan, for talks on security and the war in Iraq with its prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.

The White House has said the talks will go forward, despite a threat made Friday by anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc to pull out of the government if the meeting takes place. The bloc holds 30 seats in the 275-member Parliament and six Cabinet ministries. (Watch the stakes rise ahead of Bush and al-Maliki's meeting


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