The U.S. will “never pressure Israel to take risks regarding its security,” American Vice President Dick Cheney said in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday evening.

Although the U.S. would like to see a solution to the Israel-Arab conflict, Cheney said, such a solution could not come at a risk to Israel's security.

"America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakable, as is Israel's right to protect itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other attacks from forces dedicated to Israel's destruction," he stated.

"America is committed to moving the process forward," Cheney said. However, he said, "it is not America's role to dictate the outcome."

'A new beginning'

"We want to see a resolution to the conflict, an end to the terrorism that has caused so much grief to Israelis and a new beginning for the Palestinian people," he told reporters.

Cheney added a warning, however: "We must not and will not ignore darkening shadows of the situation in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and Iran," and the threats they pose to Israel.

After two days in Saudi Arabia, the vice president and his wife Lynne were received at the airport by F

"We must not and will not ignore darkening shadows of the situation in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and Iran."

oreign Minister Tzipi Livni and headed directly into a Saturday evening meeting with Olmert.

Main focus - Iran?

Most news organizations presented Cheney's visit as part of the US strategy to pressure Israel and the PA to agree on a framework for peace before US President George W. Bush leaves office in January. Channel 2, however, noted that Cheney was a hawk whose views on the Middle East were "to the right of the Israeli government" and said the main focus of the talks would be Iran.

Cheney reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the establishment of an Arab state next to Israel in the Land of Israel, and assured PA leaders that "they, too, can be certain of America's goodwill" as it tries to help broker an accord between them and Israel.

He added that he was especially pleased to be in Israel as it marked 60 years since its establishment. He called Israel "a modern country, whose very creation after the Holocaust is a miracle." Israel, he said, survives and thrives despite all the threats, and added that "our two nations are connected through history, religion and culture. We share the ideas of freedom and democracy. The two countries stood solidly against the threats of terror and intimidation, he said, and showed a willingness to sacrifice for peace.

Cheney going to church, Ramallah

Olmert praised Cheney for always being involved in Middle Eastern affairs and said he was proud of his friendship with him. "I will be glad to hear your observations on the events in various parts of the world, and mainly the in Middle East," he said. Olmert said he would discuss the continued "Kassam" rocket attacks on Israel by Gaza.

On Sunday, Cheney is scheduled to meet Livni, as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and Opposition Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu. In addition, he will attend Easter church services in Jerusalem. Later in the day he will head for Ramallah, to meet with PA chairman and head of the Fatah murder gang Mahmoud Abbas.

Bush asked Cheney to visit Israel to discuss the peace process and other regional issues in advance of Bush's trip in May to mark the 60th anniversary of the modern state of Israel, according to Cheney spokeswoman Lea Ann McBride.