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Kerry’s first trip to ME, Europe; not Israel

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry will make his first official trip overseas next week, and his agenda includes meetings in nine nations across Europe and the Middle East. But there will be no stops in Israel or the Palestinian territories.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Kerry is bypassing Jerusalem and Ramallah while Israeli political parties continue to form a government after recent elections.
Kerry departs Feb. 24. He will visit close US allies and partners: Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
His diplomacy will focus on the conflicts in Mali, Syria and Afghanistan.
The 2004 presidential candidate, sworn in to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this month, is scheduled to return to Washington on March 6.