On the first leg of his second foreign trip in office, President Obama today received a warm welcome -- and another not-so-nice greeting.
King Abdullah hosted Obama at his private farm. "I also want to express my best wishes to the friendly American people who are represented by a distinguished man who deserves to be in this position," the king said before their meeting.
Obama said, "This is my first visit to Saudi Arabia, but I've had several conversations with His Majesty. And I've been struck by his wisdom and his graciousness. Obviously the United States and Saudi Arabia have a long history of friendship, we have a strategic relationship. And as I take this trip and we'll be visiting Cairo tomorrow, I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek His Majesty's counsel and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East."
UPDATE: After their private meeting, the White House issued a one-paragraph synopsis:
"President Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia met today and discussed a wide range of issues including Middle East peace, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, energy, Iran and other matters affecting the region. The President and the King also discussed the President's upcoming speech to the Muslim world. The President and King pledged to remain in close contact in order to continue to make progress on these and other issues central to the US-Saudi relationship."
But as Obama landed in the Middle East, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden issued a new audiotape threatening Americans and accusing Obama of inflaming hatred toward the United States by urging Pakistan to launch a campaign of "killing, fighting, bombing and destruction" against Taliban militants in the Swat Valley, where the Islamabad government had agreed to a truce and had allowed the Taliban to impose religious law.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.