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Middle East

Obama talks Syria with Saudi FM

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends an emergency meeting with Arab League foreign ministers, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, to discuss the political situation in Syria on April 26, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI)

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama met with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal Wednesday, in the latest of a string of talks with key players in the Middle East and the Gulf as he mulls policy on Syria.

Obama dropped by a meeting between Prince Saud and US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon at the White House, using a diplomatic practice designed to satisfy protocol between leaders of different political rank.

"The president and Prince Saud al-Faisal reaffirmed the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia and discussed developments in the region, including the conflict in Syria," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

The prince offered condolences over the twin bombings at the finish line of the Boston marathon on Monday and Obama asked him to pass on his best wishes to Saudi King Abdullah, according to Hayden.

Saudi Arabia is among the Gulf states believed to be sending arms to rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a brutal civil war.

Washington has so far balked at sending arms and lethal military equipment, fearing they could end up in the hands of radical extremist groups that could eventually be turned against it or its allies.

Obama is in the middle of a string of meetings with Middle Eastern allies focusing in part on Syria.

On Tuesday, he hosted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the White House and will also meet leaders of Turkey, Qatar and Jordan in coming weeks.

Secretary of State John Kerry is due to attend a meeting of the core group of the "Friends of Syria" on April 20 in Istanbul, the State Department said last week.

The group, comprising the United States, European and Arab countries opposed to Assad, held its last major meeting in Rome in February.

 

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