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Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Saudi Arabia to discuss unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a $60 billion arms deal.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has arrived in Saudi Arabia and will reportedly discuss unrest in the region as well as a $60 billion arms deal and the status of Yemen's beleaguered president.
In his third trip to the region in the past month, Gates will meet with King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and Defense Minister Khalid Bin Sultan.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morell said talks would include Iran and its attempt to exploit unrest in the Middle East and North Africa to its advantage, RTT News reported.
One of the aims of last year's arms sale, the biggest in U.S. history, was to offset Iran's growing military capabilities, DPA reports.
Iranian clerics, meanwhile, condemned last month’s Saudi military intervention in neighboring Bahrain, staging protests inside their seminaries to show solidarity with Bahrain’s mainly Shia opposition.
Tehran, meanwhile, released a statement taunting the Saudi army to show its “prowess” against “crimes of the Zionist regime [Israel]” in Palestine, according to the Financial Times.
“Attacking the homes of defenseless Bahraini people … does not show the power of an armed force rather a sign of its weakness and wretchedness,” the statement, signed by more than 200 lawmakers, reportedly said.
Another shared concern is the ongoing battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The issue of Yemen, where Al Qaeda is said to operate, and its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is another potential discussion point.
Washington and Riyadh have in recent days shifted from publicly supporting Saleh's bid to stay in power.
The talks are unlikely to focus on Saudi Arabia's internal situation, which has seen a limited number of demonstrations by the country's Shia population in the eastern oil producing provinces.