Saudi crown prince soaks in Trump's praise on US tour

Cheb Khaled performing in Jeddah. Credit Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened a marathon tour of the United States on Tuesday by soaking in praise from President Donald Trump, who championed close economic ties and increased military sales to the Saudis as he hosted the young heir to the throne in the Oval Office.

The Obama administration also halted some USA arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns about civilian deaths in neighboring Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is waging war against Iranian-backed rebels.

But as Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, pointed out on the eve of the Crown Prince's visit, cooperation between the Saudis and the U.S. on defence and security issues is about much more than negotiating lucrative arms deals.

Saudi Crown Prince, on Sunday, said that women need not wear a head cover or the black abaya in public as long as they are wearing something decent.

The hard-charging Crown Prince Salman, heir to the Saudi throne, noted that the US and Saudi Arabia have been allies for 80 years. Lotta bad things are happening in Iran.

Trump urged Prince Mohammed to settle the festering battle that pits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar.

Trump's focus on Saudi purchases of USA military equipment came amid a bipartisan effort to limit the United States' role in Yemen's civil war and protests in several US cities over the Saudi-led invasion, which has contributed to a humanitarian crisis.

In New York, Mohammed will meet with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and participate in a Saudi-U.S. CEO forum. They've cast themselves as essential partners against Islamist extremist groups and, especially since Trump's maiden overseas voyage past year, touted their lavish purchases of high-tech goods from job-creating American companies. "We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy".

The U.S. has raised concerns previously about heavy civilian casualties and indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

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"But Iran has not been treating that part of the world or the world itself appropriately", he said.

MBS will be in the USA for about two weeks, meeting politicians and business leaders on a trip created to "rehabilitate" the kingdom's image in the country, analysts say.

In May a year ago, US President Donald Trump, in his first visit overseas, travelled to Saudi Arabia where Riyadh organised a Muslim states Summit attended by over fifty heads of States.

However, the vote served to highlight U.S. intervention in an escalating military conflict in the Middle East's poorest country, which the United Nations has described as the world's largest humanitarian disaster.

However, Qasemi responded harshly to the prince's criticisms while also highlighting the success of the Iran nuclear deal.

"We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences", Tillerson said last June in Sydney. He's showing reporters a sign that lists Saudi purchases and another of pending sales of military equipment to the kingdom.

Jubeir insists the issue is of little matter in the broader picture of US-Saudi ties.

Saudi Arabia on Monday called the Iran nuclear deal a "flawed agreement", and Trump has made clear he plans to exit the agreement unless changes are made to it.

Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the nuclear accord unless European allies and the U.S. Congress agree by May 12 to fix what he called its "disastrous flaws" and impose tough new restrictions aimed at curbing Iran's ballistic-missile development and its involvement in regional conflicts.

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