Obama administration: U.S. and Saudi Arabia ‘very much aligned’


President Barack Obama meets with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at his desert retreat, Rawdat Khuraim, on Friday, March 28, 2014.

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The United States and Saudi Arabia are “very much aligned” despite recent policy differences over Iran and Syria, a senior U.S. official said following a meeting between President Barack Obama and King Abdullah.

Sitting down face to face with the King at his desert retreat, Rawdat Khuraim, outside the capital, Obama reiterated the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Abdullah has raised concerns about the U.S.-led diplomatic effort along with major world powers to use negotiations to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting,” a senior administration official told reporters, adding the discussion was “not contentious.” It was Obama’s first trip to Saudi Arabia since 2009.

The two leaders also discussed “tactical” differences with Saudi Arabia over the question of the arming of Syrian rebels.

A senior administration official denied published reports that the United States is considering supplying the opposition to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad with surface-to-air missiles, also known as MANPADS.

Obama and Abdullah steered clear of international complaints of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. But a senior administration official announced Obama would attend a ceremony Saturday to recognize a Saudi woman with a State Department award for her efforts to combat domestic violence.

The 90-year-old King wore a breathing tube during his meeting with Obama. But a senior administration official said Abdullah appeared in good health and sustaining a “serious discussion” of the issues.

Obama, who was joined in the meeting by Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, returns to Washington on Saturday.

By Jim Acosta

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