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Pompeo Meets With Saudi Leaders About Iran, Economy, Human Rights

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on February 19.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh for talk focused on security concerns about Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran.

Ahead of his arrival late on February 19 in the Saudi capital, Pompeo said he would also raise concerns with the Saudi leadership about Saudi Arabia's human rights record -- including cases of Saudi-U.S. citizens who are either imprisoned in Saudi Arabia or barred from traveling abroad.

State Department officials said that Pompeo also planned to meet with King Salman's son, the powerful Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan.

"We'll spend a lot of time talking about the security issues with the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular," Pompeo said on February 19.

Riyadh has been a strong ally of Washington in its disputes with Iran. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia competes for influence in the Middle East with Shi’ite-led Iran.

Washington and Tehran have been at loggerheads and have come close to open warfare since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and began reimposing financial sanctions on Iran.

The top U.S. diplomat said Washington was "prepared to talk anytime" to Tehran but stressed that the Iranians must "fundamentally change their behavior."

Many U.S. lawmakers of both parties have urged Pompeo to press Riyadh on several controversial matters.

Saudi Arabia has come in for intense criticism in the West over its devastating five-year war in Yemen, the detention of women’s rights activists, and the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters