RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 6 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Saudi Arabia Wednesday to discuss with King Abdallah the uprisings sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.
Pentagon officials said talks would focus on a $60 billion arms contract to Saudi Arabia and the threat of Iran in the region, The New York Times reported. The visit also provides a chance to thaw the recent chilled relations between the two countries.
The Saudis were angered President Obama turned his back on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the face of widespread protests while the United States was not pleased when the Saudis sent troops into Bahrain to help quell a Shiite-led rebellion against its Sunni monarch.
"The king has fashioned himself as a reformer in the Saudi system," a senior defense official said. "They're going to have to find their own path."
Saudi Arabia is the third largest oil supplier to the United States, which also considers the Arab country its best defense in the region against Iran, the Times said.
"As we stand up for our principles, while still trying to protect our interests, we're going to have to take a pragmatic approach," the Pentagon official said.
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