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John Kerry begins first overseas trip as secretary of state

Pool / Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) is greeted by U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman, upon his arrival for his first official trip overseas as Secretary, at the Stansted Airport, east of London, February 24, 2013.

Secretary of State John Kerry landed in London, England on Sunday, using his first overseas trip as America's chief diplomat to introduce himself to some of the United States' top allies.

Kerry will visit nine countries over the course of his ten-day trip, meant to be an introductory tour but also with a focus on ending the violence in Syria.

Along with the United Kingdom, Kerry will visit Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

While speaking in Britain Monday with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticizes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's handling of civil unrest inside his country.

While in Rome, Kerry will participate in the Friends of Syria Conference, an international meeting to address the nearly two years of violence that have ravaged the country since it plunged into civil war.

Leaders of the Syrian opposition, however, have expressed skepticism about the meeting and have indicated they may not attend, despite urgings from the international community.

"The Syrian Opposition leadership is under severe pressure now from its membership, from the Syrian people, to get more support from the international community. And in that context, there is quite a bit of internal discussion about the value of going to international conferences," a senior Obama administration official told reporters traveling with Kerry.

"The point that we're trying to make, and what we are stressing in all of our conversations with them ... is that they have an opportunity in Rome with the meeting that the Italians have offered to host to see the very countries that have been their greatest supporters, and to come and present to all of us how they see the situation on the ground both in security terms, humanitarian terms, and in political terms and economic terms and to make their case for where they are in terms of the support," the official said.

Catherine Chomiak contributed to this report