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Obama sets off for Israel charm offensive

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Obama sets off for Israel charm offensive
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Washington: Barack Obama was on his way to Israel Wednesday for the first time as US president, hoping to ease past tensions with his hosts and under pressure to narrow differences over handling Iran's nuclear threat.

Obama's long-awaited visit, the debut overseas trip of his second term, comes as Israel's new government settles in and will also expose Obama's diminished ambitions of forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The president's airplane, Air Force One, took off at 8:15 pm (0015 GMT Wednesday) from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

Obama was scheduled to touch down in Tel Aviv at around 1030 GMT and embark on a four-day trip during which he will meet Israeli leaders and travel to the West Bank.

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