On eve of Trump-Saudi meeting, Riyadh calls Iran nuclear deal flawed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia called the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers a "flawed agreement" on Monday, on the eve of a meeting between the Saudi Crown Prince and U.S. President Donald Trump who have both been highly critical of Iran.

"Our view of the nuclear deal is that it's a flawed agreement," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington.

The meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS as he known in Western circles -- and Trump, comes at a time when Riyadh and Washington have been strengthening their relationship after tensions under the previous U.S. administration.

Saudi state news agency SPA said the Crown Prince left for the United States on Monday to begin the visit, which is also expected to include meetings with business leaders and stops in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.

It is Mohammed bin Salman's first visit to the United States since becoming heir apparent.

The ambitious young prince, has embarked on reforms to modernize deeply conservative Saudi Arabia.

He visited Britain earlier this month on his first foreign tour since his rise as part of efforts to persuade Western allies that "shock" reforms have made his country, the world's top oil exporter, a better place to invest and a more tolerant society.

He will meet Trump on Tuesday at the White House.

In his meetings with business and industry leaders, the prince is aiming to cultivate investments and political support. Several dozen Saudi chief executives are expected to join him in touting investment opportunities in the kingdom.

Any visit to the New York Stock Exchange will be watched closely by investors because of the potentially lucrative listing of up to 5 percent of Saudi Aramco expected later this year.

Sources close to the process said the kingdom is increasingly looking to just float the oil giant locally as plans for an initial public offering on an international exchange such as New York or London appear to be receding.

Prince Mohammed has won Western plaudits for seeking to ease Saudi Arabia's reliance on oil, tackle chronic corruption and transform the Sunni Muslim kingdom.

But the severity and secrecy of an anti-corruption crackdown

last November, after Prince Mohammed was named heir to the throne, has unnerved some investors.

The crown prince is also likely to reiterate to Washington the view of Saudi Arabia that its regional arch-rival, Iran, should not be trusted given its nuclear program.

Under a deal reached with major powers including the United States in 2015, Tehran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel, a process that can also yield atomic bombs, in exchange for a removal of tough international sanctions.

Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European powers on Jan. 12, saying they must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he would refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran that it calls for.

(Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Tom Brown)

03/19/2018 14:14

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