New Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Europe and the Middle East next month in her first trip abroad as America's top diplomat.
The State Department says Ms. Rice will visit nine countries and the West Bank on a one week trip that begins February third. (Stops will include Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Luxembourg, Turkey and Poland, in addition to the West Bank.)
Spokesman Richard Boucher said Ms. Rice intends to promote President Bush's vision of freedom as the key to peace and prosperity. He said she also looks forward to advancing the Middle East peace process.
Aides also say the trip is aimed at repairing relations with U.S. allies strained by the Iraq war, and to lay the groundwork for President Bush's European trip later in February.
During her first full day as secretary of state, Ms. Rice telephoned a host of foreign officials, including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.