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Obama Meets Saudi King, Prepares for Major Speech


U.S, President Barack Obama is in Saudi Arabia as he prepares to address Muslims around the world Thursday from Cairo. On the eve of the speech, he sought the counsel of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.

They met in private at the king's farm on the outskirts of Riyadh.

It was their first extended face-to-face meeting. As reporters and cameras were briefly ushered into the room, the president spoke of the strategic relationship between the two countries. He said he wanted to meet with the king before the speech in Cairo.

I thought it was very fitting to come to the place where Islam began and to seek His Majesty's counsel, and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East," said President Obama.

King Abdullah thanked the president for his words, and said the people of the United States have elected a distinguished man who deserves to be president.

He too reflected on years of U.S.-Saudi strategic ties going back to the World War II era.

Earlier, the king gave President Obama a red-carpet airport welcome complete with a military honor guard and a 21 gun salute.

The stop in Riyadh was a late addition to an itinerary that was originally slated to begin in Cairo with an address to the world's Muslims - a speech Mr. Obama has been promising since last year's presidential campaign.

His aim is to ease decades of tensions between Muslims and the United States - tensions heightened by the war in Iraq and lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

But as he was arriving in Riyadh with high hopes of launching an invigorated dialogue, a new audio tape attributed to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was aired on al-Jazeera television.

In the recorded message, bin Laden vows revenge for the crackdown on militants in Pakistan, and threatens violence on the American people.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters in Riyadh, bin Laden wants to undermine the president's outreach to Muslims.

"I don't think it is surprising that al-Qaida would want to shift attention away from the president's historic efforts, and continued efforts, to reach out and have an open dialogue with the Muslim world," said Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs said the tape is still being analyzed, but said the message is consistent with those heard in the past from al-Qaida threatening the U.S. and other countries involved in counter-terrorism efforts.
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