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Panetta heads to Middle East next week
Panetta heads to the Middle East next week; will talk with leaders about Syrian conflict
By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will head to the Middle East next week and is expected to speak with Israeli and Jordanian officials about the ongoing conflict in Syria and worries about Iran.

His visit comes at a critical time, as the U.S. weighs its options for more direct involvement in Syria's civil war. Reports this week suggested that Iranian leaders will support Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal regime.

Little says Panetta also plans to meet with the Egypt's newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, and will also stop in Tunisia, to show America's ongoing commitment to the government reforms in those two countries.

His Middle East trip comes days after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visits Israel and meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others.

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