Obama arrives in Saudi Arabia, visits king

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RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — As President Obama arrived here Wednesday for meetings with the Saudi royal family, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden surfaced to offer a reminder of the high-stakes agenda Mr. Obama is pursuing on his trip abroad — a battle to improve the U.S. relations with the Muslim world and counter violent anti-U.S. attitudes among Islamic extremists.

Shortly after the new president was greeted by Saudi King Abdullah upon his landing, the Sept. 11 mastermind issued a audiotape accusing Mr. Obama of “planting the seeds of hatred and vengeance” in the Muslim world toward the United States. Bin Laden accused the U.S. government of ordering the recent Pakistani offensive against Taliban and Islamic extremists in the Swat Valley and warning of unspecified “consequences.”

The tape aired on the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network, frequently used by the global terror network to spread its message. Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden’s top deputy, issued his own statement Tuesday slamming Mr. Obama’s highly-anticipated speech Thursday in Cairo on U.S. relations with the Islamic world.

Mr. Obama did not address the bin Laden tape during a brief statement to reporters, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in Riyadh its contents were consistent with the “threatening” messages issued by al Qaeda in the past and said the terrorist is attempting to “upstage” and “try to be a part of” Mr. Obama’s day.

“I dont think its surprising that al Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the president’s historic and continued efforts to reach out and have an open dialogue with the Muslim world,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding the White House has not had a chance to analyze the full message.

RELATED STORY: New Bin Laden tape brings up Pakistan

In the meeting with King Abdullah at the king’s royal retreat, Mr. Obama outlined some of his goals for the trip.

“The United States and Saudi Arabia have a long history of friendship. … As I take this trip and will be visiting Cairo tomorrow, I thought it was very important 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,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “I am confident that working together the United States and Saudi Arabia can make progress on a whole host of issues of mutual interest.”

In the tape, bin Laden focused Mr. Obama’s actions in Pakistan as the source of his anger.

“This simply means that Obama and his administration have planted new seeds of hatred and vengeance towards America,” bin Laden said, according to CBS after it translated the message.

“In this manner, Obama appears to have followed the same path taken by [former President George W. Bush] in creating more enmity towards Muslims and adding on to the fighting enemies, thus paving the way for new long wars,” the tape said. “Let the American people prepare to continue harvesting what their White House leaders grow, in the years and decades to come.”

Before the new bin Laden tape was reported, it had been an amicable start to the president’s six-day trip, which includes the speech in Cairo and visits to Germany and France.

As Mr. Obama descended the stairs of Air Force One at 2:33 p.m. local time after a nearly 13-hour flight, King Abdullah began the receiving line. The Saudi Honor Guard and about 150 other military members lined up to officially welcome the president. The traditional 21-gun salute given to heads of state was fired from a distance.

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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