Obama, US officials pay respect in Saudi Arabia

World Today

President Barack Obama meets Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. The president and first lady came to expresses their condolences on the death of the late Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, to pay their respects following the death of King Abdullah.

During his four-hour stop in the country, Obama was to hold his first formal meeting with new King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and then attend a dinner with other Saudi officials at the Erga Palace.

Despite concerns over human rights abuses, the president has defended the U.S. government’s willingness to cooperate closely with Saudi Arabia on national security, as he joined an array of current and former American officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, on Tuesday in paying respects following the death of King Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia’s status as one of Washington’s most important Arab allies has at times appeared to trump U.S. concerns about the terrorist funding that flows from the kingdom and about human rights abuses. But Obama said he has found it most effective to apply steady pressure over human rights “even as we are getting business done that needs to get done.”

“Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counterterrorism or dealing with regional stability,” Obama said in a CNN interview in advance of his arrival.

Report complied with information from The Associated Press