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John Kerry to address colleagues at State Dept.

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[February 04, 2013]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- New Secretary of State John Kerry will be introducing himself to his agency's employees Monday after spending much of the weekend making connections with leaders around the world.

Kerry reached out to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in phone calls Sunday, assuring them the Obama administration will continue to pursue a Mideast peace agreement while recognizing the individual concerns on both sides.

He told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he and President Barack Obama were committed to Israel's security. Netanyahu and Kerry also discussed Iran and Syria, and pledged to work together closely.

In his conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry pledged to continue efforts with Congress to release budget support funds for the Palestinian Authority.

The department also said Kerry spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday about the formation of the country's new government, and said the two "exchanged views" on the peace process and regional matters.

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On a busy first weekend as America's top diplomat, Kerry also spoke with his counterparts in Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Canada and Mexico. He had lunch with George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.

Kerry was sworn in Friday, succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton in Obama's Cabinet.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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