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Obama Begins Mideast Visit in Saudi Arabia


U.S. President Barack Obama is in Saudi Arabia, the first stop on a multi-country trip that includes a major effort to reach out to Muslims around the world.

Saudi King Abdullah greeted Mr. Obama at Riyadh's airport Wednesday. The U.S. president praised the "strategic relationship" and "long history of friendship" between their two countries, before he headed to the king's farm for private talks.

The White House says the two men discussed Middle East peace, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran, energy and other matters affecting the region.

A White House statement says Mr. Obama and King Abdullah also discussed the president's speech Thursday to the Muslim community at Cairo University in Egypt.

In the speech, President Obama is expected to also address the Middle East peace process and issues of religious extremism and violence.

Senior White House aides on Wednesday said Mr. Obama was still putting finishing touches on the speech, and plans to offer "robust" and "forthright discussion" of issues that have strained U.S.-Muslim relations, as well as areas that offer opportunity for engagement and growth.

The advisors also said the speech will be just one part of a long process toward Mr. Obama's goal of mending U.S. ties to the Muslim world.

Moments after Mr. Obama's plane touched down in Riyadh, Al Jazeera television aired a new audio tape attributed to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who criticized the U.S. president's efforts to connect with Muslims. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called it an effort to upstage Mr. Obama and divert attention from his message.

From Egypt, the president travels to Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and to visit the former Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald.

Mr. Obama concludes his trip in France, where he will meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy and attend ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the allied forces' landing in Normandy that helped lead to victory in World War II.

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