- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi officials privately say that the visit last week by Vice President Dick Cheney and other VIPs, including the first President Bush, have helped to cement the U.S.-Saudi alliance at the onset of King Abdullah’s rule.

Other members of the U.S. delegation included former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Saudi officials privately said they were pleased by the high-level U.S. representation.

American and other international reporters, photographers and television crews were kept at arm’s length throughout the visit.

American media were prevented from going to the air base in central Riyadh, where the U.S. delegation’s plane landed and took off. The Saudis granted permission at the last minute for a U.S. television cameraman to accompany the delegation and to film the start of the get-together.

“That [absence of U.S. media] helped to give the Saudis a sense that the visit was genuinely to express condolences and to congratulate the new official leader, rather than to grab headlines,” said a Western diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous.

King Fahd died last week after a lengthy illness, and his half-brother, Abdullah, was elevated from crown prince to king.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush were shown on television embracing King Abdullah and the newly named Crown Prince Sultan, King Fahd’s half-brother.

The images reflected respect for Saudi tradition while emphasizing the cordiality of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, which has been strained since the September 11, 2001, attacks, predominantly by Saudi-born terrorists.

“Right now, our main focus is on continuing the good work that we’ve done with the Saudi government and moving forward in our relationship under the new Saudi leadership,” Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said earlier.

A Saudi official later gave the sketchiest of briefings to Saudi reporters.

Arab News said the leaders had “reviewed their bilateral relations, and the situations in Palestine and Iraq as well as issues that came to the forefront during the recent Saudi-U.S. summit at the current President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.”

The meetings took place under tight security in the capital, where there had been fears that Al Qaeda terrorists might try to exploit the presence of so many foreign leaders and of many local dignitaries and well-wishers to strike.

Distributed by WTN/World News & Features.

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