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Saudi Arabia's crown prince meets Trump
25 March 2018, 12:57 | Tara Lloyd
Ambitious Saudi prince mounts epic US charm offensive
President Trump forged a bond Tuesday with Saudi Arabia's new crown prince over increased US military sales to the kingdom and their shared disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, as they sought to erase eight years of strained relations under former President Obama.
In the Oval Office, Trump and the crown prince praised the strength of U.S. -Saudi ties, which had grown strained under the Obama administration in part over differing views toward Riyadh's regional rival, Iran. Additional protest are planned in Boston to coincide with Crown Prince Mohammed's multicity visit to the United States.
In an opinion column early this month in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, writing in the form of an open letter to Trump, urged the president not to give in to Prince Mohammed's "bad impulses" as he seeks to modernize Saudi Arabia's 'economy and religious/social structure'.
Many analysts say bin Salman's trip has not much to do with the expansion of the already-flourishing ties between the two allies, but serves to help pave the young prince's way to the Saudi throne and introduce him as the power in the kingdom to United States and global public opinion. His talk with Trump will likely include, among other things, a reaffirmation of Saudi plans to enrich uranium and match Iran's nuclear program. Neither Mr. Trump nor his guest mentioned Yemen or the humanitarian crisis there to reporters, instead focusing on the huge increase in military hardware that Saudi Arabia is purchasing from the USA, and the boon to the US economy.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Saudi Arabia is "part of the solution" in Yemen, where the Saudis are leading a USA -supported military campaign against Houthi rebels that has been heavily criticized for inflicting civilian casualties.
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In New York, Mohammed will meet with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and participate in a Saudi-U.S. CEO forum.
Trump gave a warm welcome at White House to the powerful Crown Prince and credited United States defence sales to the Saudis boosting American jobs.
The Pentagon is providing aircraft refueling and targeting capabilities to Saudi Arabia-backed forces.
Trump sounded an ominous note as he looked ahead to a May decision about whether to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, loathed by both Trump and the Saudis.
However, Qasemi responded harshly to the prince's criticisms while also highlighting the success of the Iran nuclear deal.
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The comments from Prince Mohammed, who is described as the power behind King Salman's throne, are the latest in a series of reforms made since he became Crown Prince last June.
Also high on the agenda in the White House talks was confronting Iran, a country Trump has repeatedly criticized for its expansionist policies in the Middle East.
Trump says Saudi Arabia is "footing a big part of the bill" for defense in the Middle East. In Yemen, the Kingdom says it is improving military targeting, opening up ports and pledging $1.5 billion in new aid. There were movie theatres in Saudi Arabia.
Prince Mohammed is starting a three-week trip across the U.S., his first visit since being designated the successor for his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
The Associated Press, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported that the Saudis might be willing to accept curbs on their nuclear abilities only if the nuclear deal with Iran is tightened.
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