In New Outreach to Muslims, Obama Visits Saudi Arabia

June 3, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Boston Herald

Wire Service: AP

President Barack Obama began his latest bid to repair ties with the Muslim world by paying a call Wednesday on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia’s monarch greeted Obama at Riyadh’s main airport with a ceremony when the new U.S. president arrived after an overnight flight from Washington. A band played each country’s national anthem, the Saudi national guard was on hand and there was a 21-gun salute.

Obama and Abdullah then sat together in gilded chairs, sipped cardamom-flavored Arabic coffee from small cups and chatted briefly in public before retreating to hold private talks on a range of issues at the king’s desert horse farm. There, guards on horseback flanked the long driveway, carrying swords and flags of the two countries as the king and his guest arrived.

Saudi Arabia is a stopover en route to Cairo, where Obama is set to deliver a speech that he’s been promising since last year’s election campaign — aiming to set a new tone in America’s often-strained dealings with the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.

"What we want to do is open a dialogue," Obama said in a pre-trip interview with the BBC. "You know, there are misapprehensions about the West, on the part of the Muslim world. And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West."