Trump tells Saudi prince he will work on arms deal

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to meet top global executives including the heads of Apple and Google during his trip to the US. Tolga Akmen  AFP

"The relationship now is probably as good as it's really ever been and I think will probably only get better". The Saudi de facto ruler burst in laughter.

Also present at the meeting was Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and Middle East envoy, who has already forged close ties with the Saudi Crown Prince.

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.

"We are the oldest ally of America from the Middle East", he asserted, "with more than 80 years of alliance and big interests - politically, economically, security".

As Prince Mohammed arrived in Washington, word trickled out that Saudi Aramco - the kingdom's energy behemoth - was cooling on the idea of a stock listing in NY, something Trump has publicly lobbied for.

Trump ducked a question about the issue. "And Saudi Arabia appreciates that", he added. He said, "On the political level, the American president is trying to sell the crown prince to the American public, when Saudi Arabia's image is really bad".

The Saudis and their allies are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but global organizations have harshly criticized the coalition's airstrikes and blockading of Yemeni ports for contributing to thousands of civilian deaths and a humanitarian catastrophe.

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That devastating three-year-old conflict was an early proving ground for the prince, who is also the minister of defence, but it has been beset by allegations of atrocities against civilians, and strategic drift. The Senate rejected the resolution.

The measures may not pass, but are designed as a clear warning to the White House against signing a blank check. "A bipartisan group of senators attempted to force a vote on a bill that would curb American support to Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, as well as asserting more broad congressional oversight of American's wars". Yemen is the latest such example where USA forces provide logistical and intelligence support to a Saudi-led coalition of largely Gulf nations fighting to oust Houthi rebels from what was already the Arab world's poorest nation before the conflict began.

If Saudi Arabia does pursue a nuclear program, Israel would push for it to be purely civilianin nature, Brom said.

"Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran develops a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible", Mohammed told "60 Minutes".

Riyadh expressed its nuclear ambitions in 2009 when a royal degree said that "the development of atomic energy is essential to meet the Kingdom's growing requirement for energy to generate electricity".

But if these niggles turn into full disputes, it is likely to be only behind closed doors.



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