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Trump To Host Saudi Crown Prince, With Iran Likely On Agenda

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on March 20, with the two men likely to discuss strategies to counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East and Gulf region.

The 32-year-old Prince Muhammad bin Salman will also likely discuss the cultural and political changes he is implementing in Saudi Arabia during his talks with the U.S. president. The prince provided Trump a lavish welcome in Riyadh some 10 months ago, and the two men appear to have warm relations.

Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are currently involved in a proxy war in Yemen, where Tehran supports Huthi rebels fighting against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. Iran has denied allegations that it has supplied weapons to the rebels.

The United States and the Saudis have presented evidence that they say proves that Iran has supplied missiles to the rebels, who have launched rockets into Saudi territory.

Trump and the crown prince may also discuss a dispute between Qatar and a Saudi-led coalition of fellow Arab countries. The coalition accuses Qatar of financing regional terrorism and of having too close ties to Iran -- allegations the Qataris deny.

Muhammad bin Salman was appointed crown prince in June 2017 by his father, King Salman. He was also appointed deputy prime minister and maintained his post as defense minister.

The crown prince has pushed for a modernization effort in the conservative country, including easing public restrictions on women. But he has also detained dozens of people, including members of the royal family, in what he says is a crackdown on corruption.

Based on reporting by AFP and The Saudi Gazette