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Kerry headed to Saudi Arabia

Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:28 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- John Kerry is headed to Saudi Arabia as part of his first overseas trip as U.S. secretary of state, the State Department's spokeswoman confirmed.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said Kerry will visit Riyadh as part of a diplomatic tour that begins Sunday.

"In Riyadh, he'll meet with the senior Saudi leadership to address our ongoing cooperation on a broad range of issues," she said. "He'll also have a chance to have a ministerial meeting in Riyadh with his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations."

Kerry last week said Saudi officials said "as many as 90,000 people" in the Syrian civil war. The United Nations estimates that as many as 70,000 people have died since war began in early 2011.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah swore in 30 women to serve on the country's Shura Council for the first time. Women councilmembers will have a reserved seating area and special entrances and exits to comply with a no-touch policy with male counterparts.

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