John Kerry leaves for Europe, Mideast

US Secretary of State John Kerry left early Sunday for Europe and the Middle East -- his first official trip as the top American diplomat.

A plane carrying the new US secretary of state and his team took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington at around 7:15 am (1215 GMT).

Kerry will visit Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar from February 24 to March 6.

The first stop will be London, where Kerry will meet senior British officials, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.

Among the issues high on his agenda during the trip is a newly-announced effort to agree a mammoth free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.