Cheney issues strong Israel defense

Updated: 2008-03-23 11:48

JERUSALEM - Visiting US Vice President Dick Cheney said here on Saturday that his country's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakable.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shake hands after delivering statements from inside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. Cheney was set to meet in the West Bank Sunday with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad as part of an Easter weekend bid to revive peace efforts. [Agencies] 

"America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakable, as is Israel's right to protect itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other attacks from forces dedicated to Israel's destruction," he said at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The vice president who arrived in Israel earlier Saturday underlined that the US backed Israel's right to defend itself against rockets from Hamas-ruled Gaza and will not pressure the Jewish state to take steps that threaten its security.

During his 24-hour visit, Cheney is also expected to meet with Israeli Defense Minster Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Sunday, he will head to the West Bank for talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Ann McBride was quoted by local daily Yedioth Ahronoth as saying that US President George W. Bush asked the vice president to visit Israel to discuss significant regional issues in advance of the president's return trip in May.

"The vice president's discussions will involve the ways forward in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism and protect its citizenry," she said, adding that Cheney also looks forward to visiting the Palestinian territories to reaffirm Bush's commitment to the current efforts towards the two-state solution and efforts to strengthen Palestinian institutions.

Cheney is in Israel on the latest leg of a trip to the Middle East region which has taken him to Iraq, Oman, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and will also take him to the Palestinian territories and Turkey.

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