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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 23:38 GMT
Cheney welcomed in opulent Gulf
Crown Prince Abdullah, left, walks with Cheney during a welcoming ceremony in Jeddah
The welcome ceremony in Jeddah was not a good sign of Saudi Arabia's health
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tom carver
By Tom Carver in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia

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

Not a good day. This morning we landed in Abu Dhabi.

US Vice President Dick Cheney got off Air Force One and disappeared into the Emir's private terminal at the airport for two hours of talks.

We spent two hours in a holding room.

US Vice President Dick Cheney, left, is welcomed by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed
In Abu Dhabi, Cheney disappeared into the Emir's private terminal
It was very opulent. There was lots of food. It was very comfortable.

But there was nothing to report.

And when you get a group of journalists cooped up with nothing to report, they start getting mutinous.

By the time we boarded the plane to Jeddah, old hands - used to life in the White House bubble - were claiming it had never been as bad as this.

Poor welcome

But at Jeddah, Mr Cheney's people repeated the same routine, only this time with music.

As Mr Cheney descended from Air Force One, he was greeted by a ragtag band that would have made most high school outfits look professional.

On the question of Middle East peace, Mr Cheney's affinities clearly lie with the Israelis

Their epaulettes were lopsided. The trumpets were off key and the bagpipe section (what is the Saudi connection to Scotland?) tried a rather painful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

If you can tell the health of a nation by the welcome it lays on, Saudi Arabia is in a bad way.

With a grimace, Mr Cheney shook everyone's hand on a reception line of princes from the royal family and then scuttled off once again.

Gulf War memories

Sometimes I wonder why we're here.

Being in Saudi Arabia brought back bad memories of the Gulf War and being stuck in a hotel for 10 weeks waiting for something to happen.

Eleven years on and Mr Cheney and I are back in the same place doing the same thing.

He is planning a war. I am waiting for something to happen.

Israeli affinity

Dick Cheney is a very familiar figure in this region, thanks to his Gulf War days.

He has probably spent more time in the Arab world than any other senior American politician.

And yet, he appears to have no love for it. On the question of Middle East peace, his affinities clearly lie with the Israelis.

In fact, even at the height of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's assault on Ramallah last week, Mr Cheney could not bring himself to criticise the Israelis.

The most he would say is that the action was unhelpful.

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

Click here for Day Four - on the USS Stennis Click here for Day Three - Egypt and Oman
Click here for Day Two - Jordan and Egypt
Click here for Day One - London

See also:

16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney visits US aircraft carrier
14 Mar 02 | Middle East
Chasing rumours with Cheney
13 Mar 02 | Middle East
On the road with Dick Cheney
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
13 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney prepares US troops for action
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
12 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney warned over Iraq attack
05 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: United Arab Emirates
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
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