Laura Bush: No security worries over five-day trip to Mideast

U.S. first lady Laura Bush isn’t worried about security on her five-day trip to Jordan, Israel and Egypt, despite recent security scares, she said after taking off Thursday night on her way to the Middle East. Bush will arrive in Israel on Sunday morning, as part of a regional visit to promote democracy and the status of women. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the White House area last week as a small plane flew into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., and the U.S. president and his wife came within 100 feet of a live hand grenade in Tbilisi, Georgia. The grenade did not detonate. Rather than being concerned about security, Bush said she hopes she can help repair the U.S. image that she said has been damaged by a recently retracted Newsweek report that American interrogators desecrated the Koran as well as documented abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Bush’s original itinerary included only Arab countries, according to senior political officials. However, sources in Jerusalem said U.S. President George W. Bush asked his wife to include Israel in the visit. The first lady will be received at Ben-Gurion International Airport by Judy Moses-Shalom, wife of Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Later, she will meet Gila Katsav, President Moshe Katsav’s spouse. Bush will then visit Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Her next stop will be in Jericho, in the Palestinian Authority, where she will meet a group of Palestinian women and visit the site of the ancient Hisham palace. Bush will spend the night in Jerusalem. On Monday, she will continue to Cairo for the remainder of her tour. Bush has no political meetings scheduled in Israel, but is expected to speak about women’s rights and the empowerment of women. BPI-info