Sun, Mar 30, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Obama reassures Saudi king of ties

NO CHANGE:The US president visited King Abdullah to clear up policy concerns, officials said, and while Syria was discussed, human rights in Saudi Arabia were not

AFP, RIYADH

US security and energy specialist professor Paul Sullivan said Obama meeting King Abdullah could “help clear the air on some misunderstandings.”

“However, I would be quite surprised if there were any major policy changes during this visit. This is also partly a reassurance visit,” Sullivan added.

The two leaders were also expected to discuss Egypt, another bone of contention since the 2011 uprising that ousted former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was a staunch US and Saudi ally.

The kingdom was angered by the partial freezing of US aid to Egypt after the army toppled Islamist former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in July last year — a move hailed by Riyadh.

Meanwhile, US officials said Obama did not raise the issue of human rights with the king despite appeals from US lawmakers and rights groups.

Dozens of US lawmakers had urged Obama to publicly address Saudi Arabia’s “systematic human rights violations” and efforts by women activists to challenge its ban on female drivers.

“We do have a lot of significant concerns about the human rights situation” in Saudi Arabia, the second administration official said, mentioning in particular “women’s freedoms.”

Saudi activists have urged women to defy the driving ban and get behind the wheel yesterday, the second day of Obama’s visit.

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