Obama with Saudi King Abdullah, March 28, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
RIYADH - US President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah discussed "tactical differences" in their approach to some issues during a meeting in Riyadh on Friday, but agreed both sides remain strategically aligned, a senior US official said.
Obama also assured Abdullah that the United States would not accept a bad nuclear deal with Iran, the official said, adding that Washington remained concerned about providing some shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian rebels.
In the run-up to his visit to the kingdom, officials had said Obama would aim to persuade the monarch
that Saudi concerns that Washington was slowly disengaging from the Middle East and no longer listening to its old ally were unfounded.
Last year senior Saudi officials warned of a "major shift" away from Washington after bitter disagreements about its response to the "Arab Spring" uprisings, and policy towards Iran and Syria, where Riyadh wants more American support for rebels.
The official said the two leaders had spoken frankly about a number of issues and "what might be or might have been tactical differences or differences in approaching some of these issues, but President Obama made very clear he believes our strategic interests remain very much aligned," the official said.
The official added that Obama had assured the king that "we won't accept a bad deal" on Iran and that the king "listened very carefully" to what Obama said. The official said it was important for Obama to come and explain the US position face-to-face with the king.
Human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia were not raised in talks between Obama Abdullah on Friday, a US official said.
"Today, given the extent of time they spent on Iran and Syria, they didn't get to a number of issues, and it wasn't just human rights," the official said. The official added that Obama on Saturday would present a State Department Woman of Courage Award to a Saudi woman fighting domestic violence.