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Saudi king names son as US envoy

Riyadh : Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a decree naming one of his sons, an air force pilot who has taken part in coalition strikes against the Islamic State group, as the kingdom’s new ambassador to the US.

The appointment of Prince Khaled bin Salman to Washington signals the kingdom’s eagerness to strengthen bilateral ties under President Donald Trump. As the king’s son, the prince has a direct line to the Saudi monarch. Saudi Arabia is the world’s third largest defence spender. Prince Khaled’s appointment positions him as an influential broker in deals with US manufacturers.

Saudi-US relations had cooled under the Obama administration after Washington pursued a nuclear accord with Shiite-ruled Iran that the Sunni-ruled kingdom strongly opposed. Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional rivals, and back opposing sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen. Relations with the Riyadh have improved since Trump took office. King Salman dispatched his most powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defence minister, to meet Trump at the White House last month. Saudi Arabia was quick to praise Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian military base in response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians. Prince Khaled is a former F-15 pilot who graduated military-aviation training from Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi in 2009 and took part in anti-IS strikes in 2014 as part of the US-led coalition.

He also participated in flight missions over Yemen, where the kingdom has been bombing a Yemeni faction aligned with Iran for more than two years. The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news website says the prince studied briefly at Harvard University and Georgetown University. The news website says he trained at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, but that a back injury forced him to stop flying.

He has been an adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington since late last year. US officials say the Trump administration is considering ways to boost military support for the Saudi-led fight against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. AFP

This post was syndicated from Free Press Journal. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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