WASHINGTON (May. 23)
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney will visit Israel for three days starting May 29, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Cheney will meet with Israeli President Chaim Herzog, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens.
The visit to Israel is part of a 10-day trip by Cheney, which starts Monday in Paris with talks with French President Francois Mitterrand and the new French prime minister, Edith Cresson. Cheney will attend a NATO meeting in Brussels before going to Jerusalem.
After Israel, Cheney will spend five days in Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Mohammed Tantawi.
Pentagon officials stressed that Cheney’s visit to Israel and Egypt is not a follow-up to Secretary of State James Baker’s recent trip to the Middle East.
Cheney, who will be making his first visit to Israel as defense secretary, announced plans for the trip May 2 at a news conference just before he spoke to the American Jewish Committee’s annual meeting in New York. Since then he has visited the Persian Gulf states.
Pentagon officials said the talks in Israel and Egypt would cover bilateral, regional and strategic matters. But there is some speculation that Cheney will be sounding out France and the two Middle East countries on the Bush administration’s plans for controlling nuclear, biological and chemical arms in the Middle East.
The administration so far has refused to confirm reports that it would ask Israel not to produce nuclear weapons and the Arab countries to get rid of their chemical weapons.
The proposal also would reportedly require a ban in the Middle East of all ballistic missiles with a range of more than 90 miles.