Obama returns home from Mideast trip

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama returned home to Washington late Saturday after a four-day tour seeking to rekindle his engagement on Middle East peace and dominated by his embrace of Israel.

Air Force One landed at Andrews Air Force Base just outside the US capital at 8:08 pm (8.08am Sunday Singapore time), hours ahead of schedule.

The presidential helicopter, Marine One, then ferried Mr Obama on the short trip back to the White House, where he touched down about 30 minutes later.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and senior aides Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse accompanied the president to the West Wing.

Mr Obama had earlier wrapped up his stay in the Middle East with a visit to the ancient Jordanian ruins of Petra.

His tour of the region was dominated by assurances to Israel that America is serious about countering Iranian threats and to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace hopes alive.

Mr Obama also warned on Friday, during a news conference with King Abdullah II, that he was worried that Syria could become an enclave of "extremism" as his own policy toward the vicious sectarian war threatening to tear the nation apart came under scrutiny.

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