US & Canada

Barack Obama to visit Saudi Arabia to strengthen ties

President Barack Obama meets with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington 29 June 2010 Image copyright AP
Image caption President Barack Obama last visited Saudi Arabia in 2009 and welcomed King Abdullah to the White House the following year

US President Barack Obama will visit Saudi Arabia in March for a meeting with the country's King Abdullah, the White House has said.

The visit comes as the US tries to mend ties with its ally over Riyadh's dissatisfaction with Mr Obama's Middle East policies, especially on Syria.

Senior Saudi officials are also sceptical about the current round of US-backed nuclear talks with Iran.

Mr Obama last visited Saudi Arabia in 2009, the first year of his presidency.

The country was angered last year after Mr Obama declined to launch military strikes on Syria to punish the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces.

Saudi Arabia has also expressed frustration the US has not done more to arm rebel groups battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Iran, Saudi ambassador to Britain Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz wrote in The New York Times last year that negotiations between Iran and Western powers over Iran's nuclear programme were a "dangerous gamble".

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, while some Western countries, including the US, suspect the country has designs on nuclear weapons.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday that Mr Obama would discuss security around the Middle East and Saudi Arabia's objections to US policy on Iran and Syria during the visit.

"Whatever differences we may have do not alter the fact that this is a very important and close partnership," Mr Carney told reporters.

The visit will come after a three-country European tour by Mr Obama.

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