RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A US delegation led by Vice President Dick Cheney called on King Abdullah yesterday, a visit intended to show the importance Washington attaches to close ties with oil power Saudi Arabia.
Cheney, former president George H. W. Bush, and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell offered condolences on the death Monday of the new monarch's half brother, King Fahd.
Reporters were barred from the meeting at the king's farm outside Riyadh, but the official Saudi Press Agency said the group discussed Iraq, bilateral relations, and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Cheney invited Abdullah to visit President Bush at the White House, the agency said.
Spain's King Juan Carlos, a longtime friend of Fahd, also met yesterday with Abdullah, who embraced him warmly in footage broadcast on Spanish television.
Saudi Arabia is a major US ally in the Middle East. As crown prince, Abdullah worked to repair ties strained by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, in which 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis. The Bush family has had close ties with the Saudi royal family for decades.
After Abdullah's investiture Wednesday, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said he expected US-Saudi relations to continue improving. On Thursday, Prince Salman, Abdullah's half brother and governor of Riyadh, said relations between the nations were ''strong but sometimes troubled."
''The two leaderships pretty well know that their relations are strategic because they are based on mutual interests," Salman told journalists.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have maintained strategic ties based on oil for security since 1945, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met Abdullah's father, Abdel-Aziz bin Saud.
The strength of the relationship was demonstrated in the 1991 Gulf War when Cheney, then defense secretary, and Powell, then head of the US armed forces, persuaded Fahd to allow the deployment of American forces in the kingdom as part of the campaign to expel the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. The deployment was strongly opposed by radical Islamic Saudis, such as Al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden.