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Kerry to visit Europe, Mideast on 1st trip

18:29 Wed Feb 20 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit nine countries in Europe and the Middle East starting on Sunday as he undertakes his first foreign trip as top diplomat, the State Department says.

Kerry will visit Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar through March 6, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Tuesday.

Nuland said the former senator's trip was partly a "listening tour," although in Rome he would meet with Syrian opposition leaders and look at potential further US efforts to end the bloodshed in that country.

The newly installed US secretary of state would also discuss Syria with regional players including Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, she said.

Kerry is not visiting Israel or the Palestinian territories. Nuland noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still forming a government and said Kerry would join President Barack Obama on an upcoming visit to the Jewish state.