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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 18:16 GMT
On the road with Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Cheney tells troops in Egypt to prepare for phase two
test hello test
tom carver
By Tom Carver in Jordan and Egypt

This is the second in a series of despatches from our correspondent, who accompanies US Vice President Dick Cheney on his Middle East tour.

We are in a bus hurtling through Amman on the way to the airport.

Somehow, we have become detached from the vice president, so our Jordanian police escort is trying to make up for lost time.

Off the record, he talks to us as if from a pre-prepared script, not because he is inarticulate like his boss but because he is a man of utmost caution

We whistle past the Roman amphitheatre - the nearest we get to sightseeing - and then, tyres smoking, screech headlong into a traffic jam.

Somehow the police car creates a third lane in a two-lane road.

We squeeze through, scraping between lorries and angry taxi drivers. "Another reason for them to hate us," one of the American TV reporters says dryly.


There is an enormous whistle which drowns out even our police escort's horn.

We turn to look. Too late we realise we are straddling a railway track. Proceeding at a stately pace towards us is a bright yellow goods train with "Hedjaz Jordanian Railway" printed in large letters on the side.

An Egyptian soldier puts up a US flag
Egypt is an influential US ally
It is clearly not going to stop. Somehow we find a space to squeeze through and we are free.

Travelling with Dick Cheney is an interesting experience. To him, we are clearly a hindrance rather than an asset.

Sometimes his officials seem mildly surprised when they see us trudging along behind them across a dusty runway - like the stray dogs that follow you wherever you go on an Arab street.

Gangster boss

The vice president is a man of few words of any interest on the record.

And, off the record, talks to us as if from a pre-prepared script, not because he is inarticulate like his boss but because he is a man of utmost caution.

He keeps his opinions for his private one-to-one sessions with each head of state.

His chief of staff, "scooter" Libby, is made from the same mould. His idea of a long sentence is three words.

At Sharm el Sheikh, a dramatic location where the dry severe mountains of the Sinai plunge into the Red Sea, Mr Cheney gives a speech to a couple of hundred American troops serving in the Sinai observation force.

Talking in his low, even growl, he delivers even the few sentences of oratory inserted into his speech like a gangster boss issuing a threat. Being Dick Cheney's speechwriter must be rather like being an ice-cream salesman in Greenland - quite a challenge.

Follow Tom Carver's reports on the vice president's tour:

Click here for Day One - London

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney prepares US troops for action
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney warned over Iraq attack
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