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Cheney to meet with Arab leaders, U.S. troops

Vice President Dick Cheney will visit the Middle East next week to meet with Arab leaders and speak with U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region, the White House announced Thursday. [!]
Bush Yemen
Vice President Dick Cheney will make a trip to the Persian Gulf region next week for talks with Arab leaders and U.S. troops in the area.Charles Dharapak / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Vice President Dick Cheney will visit the Middle East next week to meet with Arab leaders and speak with U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region, the White House announced Thursday.

Scheduled stops include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

The six-day tour comes little more than two months after Cheney's globe-circling journey that may have contributed to a blood clot in his leg that he is still battling.

While Cheney, who has a history of heart-related problems, remains at higher risk than others from circulatory-system problems, the fact that he is on blood thinners because of the first clot may put him at reduced risk of developing another clot on the flight.

"His risk is really quite low since he is on anti-coagulation" medication, said Dr. Cameron Akbari, a vascular surgeon at Washington Hospital Center.

Key issues of mutual interest
Cheney has often served as President Bush's troubleshooter in the Middle East. He traveled through the region in March 2002 to discuss possible military action against Iraq. Most recently, Cheney went to Saudi Arabia in November for meetings with King Abdullah on the situation in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A White House announcement said that on the upcoming trip, which begins Tuesday, Cheney would meet with Saudi Arabia's Abdullah, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and United Arab Emirates President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The White House said Cheney would discuss "key issues of mutual interest" with the leaders.

"The vice president also will meet with U.S. military commanders and speak with U.S. troops stationed in the Persian Gulf region," the White House statement said.

On March 5, doctors discovered a blood clot - called a deep venous thrombosis, or DVT - in Cheney's lower left leg, a condition that could be fatal if left untreated.

Cheney was put on blood thinning medicine for several months. In a follow-up visit to the doctor on April 24, doctors found that the clot was slowly getting smaller. Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn said his doctors advised him to continue with "the current course of treatment."

Many people develop such clots after spending long periods without moving, such as passengers on long airline flights. Cheney spent about 65 hours on a plane on a nine-day, round-the-world trip in late February that included stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cheney's upcoming trip will be much shorter. He travels with a doctor.

The condition can be serious or even fatal if the blood clot breaks off and travels into a lung, a condition of known as a pulmonary embolism.

History of heart-related problems
The 66-year-old Cheney had six hours of surgery on his legs in 2005 to repair a kind of aneurysm, a ballooning weak spot in an artery that can burst if left untreated. He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest.

"Fortunately, he is still on anti-coagulation given the fact that he was diagnosed within the past three months," said Akbari, the Washington Hospital Center vascular surgeon. Akbari said patients with DVT are usually kept on blood-thinning medication for three months to six months.

Because of his existing clot, Cheney might experience some leg-swelling on the flight, suggested Akbari, who was not directly involved in Cheney's case. "The best thing to do is to walk around, keep the leg elevated, and really prevent anything such as prolonged sitting while he's on a plane trip."

Akbari said that once Cheney stops taking blood thinners, his risk for developing additional clots will be increased. "Certainly the risk is going to be lifelong. It is going to be higher in him since he did have a previous DVT," Akbari said.