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US Sen. John Kerry visiting Lebanon, Syria

U.S. Sen. John Kerry has started a visit to Lebanon and Syria, the latest in a series of trips by American officials to the region.

The Democratic senator is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry arrived Wednesday in Beirut and is expected to meet senior Lebanese and Syrian officials during his trip, including Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Washington has reached out to Syria in recent months by nominating the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus since 2005 and sending top diplomats to meet with President Bashar Assad. Washington is hoping to draw Syria away from Iran and the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.