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Trump meets with Saudi Arabia's crown prince

By
Sommer Brokaw
President Donald Trump meets Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
President Donald Trump meets Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 20 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday, part of a three-week trip to the United States.

The Royal Court said the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne met Trump and other officials "to discuss bilateral relations and issues of common interest," the Saudi Press Agency reported.

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Christopher Henzel, charge d'affaires at the United States embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News he was confident the two leaders would "enjoy open and candid discussions on a variety of issues."

Iran's influence in the Middle East is one topic that was discussed. The two leaders view Iran as a threat to the Middle East region, making Saudi-U.S. relations a priority for the administration.

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"To put it mildly, the relationship was very very strained during the Obama administration, and the relationship now is probably as good as it's really ever been, and think will probably only get better," Trump said.

Mohammed also said the U.S. possibly pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal would be on the table.

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The meeting began with Trump holding up two presentation boards and ticking off a list of military equipment Saudi Arabia has purchased from U.S. manufacturers. One board, titled "12.5 BILLION IN FINALIZED SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA," showed photos and military equipment that Saudi Arabia has purchased. The other showed sales that were still pending.

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"It really means many many jobs...we're talking about over 40,000 jobs for the United States," Trump said. "Saudi Arabia is buying a lot of this equipment...and a lot of people are at work making this equipment."

Trump boasted about the U.S. $700 billion military budget and said Saudi Arabia is "footing a big part of the bill for defense, the whole middle east, and we know what's happened in the Middle East and it has not been a pretty picture for the United States."

"There will we zero tolerance for the funding of terrorism . . . Saudi Arabia has been working very hard on that," Trump added.

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Referring to the fight against the Islamic State terror group, Trump said, "We'll be able to get out of certain areas that we've wanted to get out of for a long time and other countries can handle it, at this point they'll be able to to handle it."

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Building relationship with Saudi Arabia has been a key part of Trump's Middle East strategy and he visited the area last spring on his first overseas presidential trip. The civil war in Yemen and the Saudi-led bombing that's killed thousands could be another issue they discuss.

Mohammed has taken a more progressive stance than his predecessor, pushing through reforms to allow women to take a more active role in society -- from driving to joining the military. He has also led a purge of corruption and imprisoned more than 380 government officials at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyad.

The visit is Mohammed's first time visiting the United States on official business since he inherited the throne.

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