Israel to be Rice's first stop on Mideast tour

Israel will be the first stop for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she sets out Friday on a weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe. Rice also will visit the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Britain, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday. He said Rice will have extended discussions on "how to address and confront various threats" that exist in the Middle East. On the Israel-Palestinian front, she will seek ways to "exploit openings that we believe exist," he added. Other issues on her agenda, he said, will be Lebanon, Iraq and the "common threat posed by Iran and other proponents of violent extremism."