US President George W. Bush left Washington on Tuesday for a
week-long Middle East trip aimed at promoting the Middle East peace
process and containing Iran's influence in the region.
During the trip, Bush will visit Israel, the Palestinian
territories, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi
Arabia and Egypt.
The visit comes just days after tensions were heightened between
Iran and the U.S. over a confrontation between Iranian gunboats and
U.S. warships in the Gulf. The U.S. branded the incident, in which
no shots were fired, a "provocative act," but Tehran played it down
as a "normal" occurrence.
A top priority for Bush during the tour is to push forward the
Middle East peace process. The United States hosted the Middle East
peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, late November last year to
re-launch the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Nearly 50 countries and international organizations attended the
Another top priority for Bush is to try to forge an alliance
among Arab countries against Iran with a view to curbing Tehran's
influence in the region.
Bush's hardline stance against Iran was dealt a blow late last
year when a top U.S. intelligence report revealed that Tehran had
suspended its nuclear weapons program several years ago. However,
Bush maintained that Iran remained a threat.
(Xinhua News Agency January 9, 2008)