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White House: Obama to visit Israel

JERUSALEM, Feb. 5 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama plans to visit Israel next month for the first time since taking up the presidency, the White House said.

Israel’s Channel 10 reported Tuesday the White House had confirmed the visit, which is to occur March 20 as part of a wider tour in the Middle East.

The report said Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed the visit in a Jan. 28 phone call, recognizing the opportunity for diplomatic progress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday details of the trip will be released “at a later time.”

“When the president spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Jan. 28, they discussed a visit by the president to Israel in the spring,” Carney said. “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 of course Iran and Syria.”

American security teams are already in Israel preparing for Obama’s first visit.

The Israeli television report said it is possible U.S. and Israeli leaders have reached an agreement on key issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian peace tract, noting Obama has indicated in the past he would visit Jerusalem only when he believes a real breakthrough could be made in peace talks.

Netanyahu’s office had no immediate official comment on the television report.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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