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Cheney arrives in Saudi after talks in Egypt

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after talks in Egypt that covered a stand-off between Syria and the United Nations over the assassination of a former Lebanese premier.
/ Source: Reuters

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after talks in Egypt that covered a stand-off between Syria and the United Nations over the assassination of a former Lebanese premier.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two Arab heavyweights who are key U.S. allies in the region, have made efforts to defuse tension over the killing of ex-Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia earlier this month for unscheduled talks on the crisis.

Syria denies any involvement in the murder of Hariri and 22 others and has said it will not let U.N. investigators question Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the murder, threatening a new showdown with the international community.

Cheney, who arrived in Egypt on Monday afternoon, had a working breakfast with President Hosni Mubarak that covered Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a U.S. official said.

The discussions also dealt with President George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda” for the Middle East, the official said. Washington says it is trying to promote democratic reforms in the Arab world.

Condolences for Kuwait's emir
Cheney, who had a private dinner with Egypt’s Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif on Monday night, was expected to have separate talks with King Abdullah and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, before heading later for Kuwait.

Cheney added Kuwait to his itinerary to offer condolences after the death of the emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a spokeswoman said. Sheikh Jaber died on Sunday at 78.

At the airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh later on Tuesday, Cheney will see Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri, son of the assassinated Rafik al-Hariri, a U.S. spokeswoman said earlier.

Cheney’s office said on Monday that the vice president and Arab leaders would discuss U.S. President George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda and the war on terror”.

The United States strongly supports the United Nations inquiry into the Hariri assassination in February last year. The investigators have pointed the finger at Syrian intelligence but the Syrian government denies it played any role.

Saud al-Faisal told Britain’s Financial Times in an interview published on Tuesday that the kingdom had made proposals for an agreement, but was waiting for a response from Beirut and Damascus, and details would have to be worked out.

Prince Saud insisted the kingdom was not seeking a compromise on the United Nations probe into Hariri’s killing.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia were to be part of a trip Cheney took in December when he visited Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Oman. But he cut short that tour to fly back to Washington to cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate.