The administration moved to use the impetus of the coalition victory over Iraq to construct a framework for postwar diplomacy on other long-standing issues, including the Arab-Israeli dispute.
Secretary of State James Baker will leave next week, probably on Wednesday, on an eight-day trip to the Middle East and the Soviet Union. Baker also planned to make his first trip to Israel as secretary of state, officials said Thursday.Other major stops will be Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, all central allies in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq.
A notable omission on Baker's itinerary is Jordan, which openly backed Iraq during the gulf war. The United States has frozen $55 million in aid to Jordan.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Baker will discuss four basic issues with his counterparts: regional security, arms control and proliferation, the Arab-Israeli dispute and future economic cooperation.
French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, who met with President Bush on Thursday, said he hoped the United States and France could work together to help "build peace, a very good peaceful and stable settlement in that region."
Although he said there are many problems to solve, Dumas indicated that the Palestinian dispute "is the most urgent among these questions."