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Cheney huddles with Saudi king, heads back

Story Highlights

NEW: Vice president on way home after meeting all day with key Arab ally
• Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria discussed
• Meeting a precursor to "broad new initiative" in Middle East, adviser says
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney is on his way back to Washington after a daylong whirlwind meeting with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah.

Cheney and King Abdullah met Saturday for several hours on issues key to both nations -- including the latest developments in Iraq, Iran's growing influence in the region, the status of Hamas in Gaza, Syria's diplomatic status, and Syria's influence in Lebanon's government, a Saudi adviser told CNN.

Saudi Arabia believes Iran is using its influence in Syria to help rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon and is undermining Lebanon's already fragile Western-backed government, said the adviser.

The brevity of Cheney's visit underlies the growing sense of urgency after a series of events highlighting an increasingly unstable Middle East.

On Tuesday, an anti-Syrian Lebanese politician, Pierre Gemayel, was assassinated in Beirut, recalling the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Watch how tensions have soared in the wake of Gemayel's assassination Video )

On Thursday and Friday in Iraq, sectarian tensions deteriorated even further, with the attack in Sadr City that killed more than 200 people and Shiite retaliation against Sunnis. (Full story)

On Saturday the Lebanese Cabinet approved the establishment of an international tribunal that would try suspects -- largely believed to be Syrian -- linked to Hariri's assassination.

And there has been fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

President Bush is scheduled to travel to Jordan next week to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (Watch the stakes rise ahead of Bush and al-Maliki's meeting Video)

The visit is the outcome of at least two months of work on a "broad new initiative for the Middle East," the adviser said.

On all issues, the Saudis and the United States see "eye to eye," the adviser added.

Saudi Arabia is expected to take a lead role in the region.

Talks with Saudi Arabia -- a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation -- could be key in helping the U.S. rein in worsening sectarian violence in Iraq.

The vice president is expected to arrive in Washington on Sunday, the White House said.

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.


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Vice President Cheney is greeted by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday.

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