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Sandstorm fouls Obama's Israel schedule

March 22, 2013 at 3:27 PM
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JERUSALEM, March 22 (UPI) -- Sandstorms moving from Egypt to Israel polluted the air Friday, reduced visibility for drivers and forced U.S. President Barack Obama to change his schedule.

Obama, who had planned to travel by helicopter to Bethlehem on the West Bank, made the trip by motorcade instead, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. As a result, he arrived in Amman, Jordan, his next stop, an hour late.

The Egyptian Meteorological Authority urged drivers to stay off the roads and fishermen to stay in port because of low visibility, Ahram Online reported. High winds, in addition to blowing sand, kicked up 10-foot waves in the Red Sea.

Four Red Sea ports were closed because of the storm.

In Israel, the Ashkelon National Park was closed by the storm, Haaretz said. The Environmental Protection Ministry advised pregnant women, the elderly, children and people with respiratory diseases to remain indoors.

Obama's transport problems caused inconvenience for others. The highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was closed for a time to allow the presidential motorcade to get to Ben Gurion International Airport unimpeded.

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