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West Bank Added To Obama's Middle East Trip

Barack Obama will make his first visit to the West Bank and Israel as US President in the coming months, the White House has said.

Mr Obama will also make a stop in Jordan on his upcoming visit to the Middle East, spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.

The dates of Mr Obama's trip have not been confirmed, but an Israeli news channel reported it is planned for March 20.

Officials had earlier said the president would visit Israel this spring, following a campaign promise made in July that if re-elected he would visit Israel during his second term.

"The start of the president's second term and the formation of a new Israeli government offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Syria," National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vieto said.

The White House said Mr Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Palestinian and Jordanian leaders to work on regional issues.

The trip's announcement comes at a time when Washington wants to revive Middle East peace talks, though Mr Obama has in the past warned against high expectations of a breakthrough in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, said the visit will be important if Mr Obama wants to act on his commitment to helping with Middle East peace efforts.

"We hope that this is more than just a symbolic visit, but with a clear message and clear commitment to the genuine substance and imperative of peace," Ashrawi said.

This visit could also provide the president with a chance to repair his notoriously strained relationship with Mr Netanyahu. Mr Obama's failure to visit Israel since 2008 has led some pro-Israeli groups to say he is not supportive enough of the close US ally.

For his part, Mr Netanyahu appeared to lecture Mr Obama on a past visit to Washington, and gave a speech to Congress that appeared to rally support against the president.