RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah discussed "tactical differences" in their approach to some issues during a meeting in Riyadh on Friday, but agreed both sides remain strategically aligned, a senior U.S. official said.
Obama also assured Abdullah that the United States would not accept a bad nuclear deal with Iran, the official said, adding that Washington remained concerned about providing some shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian rebels.
In the run-up to his visit to the kingdom, officials had said Obama would aim to persuade the monarch that Saudi concerns that Washington was slowly disengaging from the Middle East and no longer listening to its old ally were unfounded.
Last year senior Saudi officials warned of a "major shift" away from Washington after bitter disagreements about its response to the "Arab Spring" uprisings, and policy towards Iran and Syria, where Riyadh wants more American support for rebels.
The official said the two leaders had spoken frankly about a number of issues and "what might be or might have been tactical differences or differences in approaching some of these issues, but President Obama made very clear he believes our strategic interests remain very much aligned," the official said.
The official added that Obama had assured the king that "we won’t accept a bad deal" on Iran and that the king "listened very carefully" to what Obama said. The official said it was important for Obama to come and explain the U.S. position face-to-face with the king.
(Reporting By Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Lesley Wroughton,; Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Sami Aboudi and William Maclean)