US secretary of state to visit Israel ahead of election

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to visit Israel soon (AFP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Washington (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Israel ahead of its April 9 election but will not be involved in the country's domestic politics, the State Department said Tuesday.

Pompeo said Monday during a discussion with students in Iowa that he planned to visit Lebanon, Israel and Kuwait "next week."

The State Department, without giving precise dates, said the trip was planned for a little later. In any case, it will take place ahead of the Israeli election.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of the Trump administration, is facing a tough election battle as he fends off charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Pompeo's trip was not intended to send any message.

"Israel is an ally," Palladino said. "We're not going to get involved in the domestic politics of another country."

He said a detailed itinerary would be announced soon.

As for Kuwait, Pompeo had planned to go there in January but was forced to cut his eight-day Middle East trip short for family reasons.

"This is very much the continuation of that previous trip, the (US-Kuwait) strategic dialogue," he said.