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Bush to press Saudi king on oil prices PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 17 May 2008

REUTERS, RIYADH - US President George W. Bush headed towards Saudi Arabia on Friday to renew his appeal to help tame record oil prices and shore up Arab support for his efforts to contain Iran's growing influence.

As Bush flew into Riyadh, the White House said the United States, the world's largest energy consumer, had agreed to help protect the oil resources of the world's top oil exporter and help it in developing peaceful nuclear energy.

"The United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed to cooperate in safeguarding the kingdom's energy resources by protecting key infrastructure, enhancing Saudi border security, and meeting (its) expanding energy needs," a White House statement said.

"The U.S. and Saudi Arabia will sign a memorandum of understanding in the area of peaceful civil nuclear energy cooperation."

The announcement came as Bush ended a three-day trip to Israel where he vowed to oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions. Tehran says its program is peaceful but Bush said it would be "unforgivable" if Iran were allowed to get the bomb.

While Bush is likely to find common ground on Iran when he meets King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch is expected to rebuff for the second time this year the president's face-to-face call to get OPEC pumping more oil to world markets.

Since Bush's last visit in January, oil prices have jumped nearly $30 to around $126 a barrel, adding to U.S. recession fears and boosting political pressure on the White House in a year when voters will pick Bush's successor.

Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, said the president would tell the king that oil suppliers must, for their own interests, "take into account the economic health of their customers who pay these prices".

NON-PROLIFERATION

King Abdullah will host Bush at his sprawling horse farm on the outskirts of Riyadh, the centerpiece of a two-day visit that the White House says is mostly to pay tribute to 75 years of formal ties between Washington and the Islamic kingdom.

But the two leaders will have a packed agenda as they try to mend relations that deteriorated in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Apart from the agreements to cooperate on nuclear energy and oil security, the White House said Saudi Arabia had agreed to two global initiatives, one to combat nuclear terrorism and another to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

For his part, King Abdullah will be looking for reassurances of Bush's commitment to push a $1.4 billion U.S. arms sale through an opposition-led U.S. Congress.

Democrats have threatened to block the deal to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to increase oil output. OPEC members have blamed high oil prices on speculators and not any shortage of supply.

Bush's stop in Saudi Arabia precedes a weekend visit to Egypt to meet Palestinian leaders.

Bush will press the Saudis to do more to support the faltering U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He wants to achieve a deal before he leaves office in January, but the deadline is widely regarded as unrealistic.

Bush also wants Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to strengthen ties with Iraq, something they have been reluctant to do since the U.S.-led invasion that many of them opposed.

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