Obama meets two Saudi princes after King sent regrets
Updated: 2015-05-14 10:40
US President Barack Obama meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (C) and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 13, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Wednesday discussed US efforts to forge an international nuclear deal with Iran during talks with Saudi leaders and went out of his way to play down the absence of Saudi King Salman from a summit likely to be dominated by tensions over the topic.
Obama met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House after King Salman pulled out of the visit.
"The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to (President) Franklin Roosevelt," Obama said at the start of the meeting. "We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time," he said.
King Salman decided abruptly to skip the White House meeting and a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the president's Camp David retreat in Maryland outside Washington on Thursday.
The White House has sought to counter perceptions that his absence was a snub that would undermine efforts to reassure the region Washington remains committed to its security in the face of Iran's power and influence.
Obama said he and the Saudi leaders would discuss how to build on a ceasefire in Yemen and work toward "an inclusive, legitimate government" in Saudi Arabia's impoverished neighbor, where a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Iran-supported Houthi rebels.
He did not mention the Iran nuclear talks in his remarks to the media. White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the leaders discussed the "importance of a comprehensive agreement" between Iran and world powers "that verifiably ensures the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," referring to efforts by the United States and five other world powers to reach an agreement on curbing Iran's atomic program.