Kerry makes first trip as secretary of state

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LONDON - John Kerry views his first trip as U.S. secretary of state as a listening tour, but the leaders he meets will want to hear whether he has any new ideas on Syria, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry arrived on Sunday in London, the first stop on a nine-nation, 11-day trip that will also take him to Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha before he returns home on March 6.

After talks with allies in London, Berlin and Paris, the centerpiece of Kerry's European tour is a visit to Rome where he hopes to meet members of the Syrian opposition as well as a wider group of nations seeking to support them in their nearly two-year quest to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Those talks, however, appeared to be in some doubt as a result of dissension within the opposition about the utility of such international meetings given the continuing violence.

President Barack Obama has limited the United States' support to nonlethal aid for the rebels who, despite receiving weapons from countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are poorly armed compared with Assad's army and loyalist militias.

U.S. officials traveling with Kerry declined to say what new thoughts he may have on ending the violence.

They also said they did not expect any breakthroughs in Berlin on Tuesday when he meets Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia, which along with China has blocked UN Security Council resolutions to sanction the Assad government.

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