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Trump seeks to move past controversies as he lands in Riyadh

20 May 2017, 02:24 | Austin Hogan

Trump seeks to move past controversies as he lands in Riyadh

The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel over the Russia investigation

Riyadh, May20:US President Donald Trump on Saturday landed in Saudi Arabia, beginning his first global tour which is scheduled to include stops in Israel, the Vatican City, Belgium and Italy.

Trump can expect a warm welcome in Saudi Arabia where he is to meet King Salman and other senior royals - in sharp contrast to Washington where pressure is building over his team's alleged links to Moscow.

Reports also emerged that Trump had called Comey "a nut job" and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had identified a senior White House official as a "significant person of interest" in its probe of Russian meddling.

Earlier, Trump waved as he stood atop stairs on Air Force One that had been rolled to the side of the official presidential aircraft as it landed. Mr Trump was greeted by King Salman, they exchanged a handshake and Mr Trump said it was "a great honour" to be there.

Trump will call for unity in the fight against radicalism in the Muslim world, casting the challenge as a "battle between good and evil" and urging Arab leaders to "drive out the terrorists from your places of worship", according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press.

In Riyadh, Saudis were preparing to welcome Trump in grand fashion. That speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticized by a number of the United States' Middle East allies, including Israel, as being a sort of apology. White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump criticized as too apologetic for USA actions in the region. His predecessor, Barack Obama, had aroused suspicion in Gulf Arab states for what was seen by them as a lenient attitude to their regional rival.

Trump dodged one potential land mine when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted on war crime and genocide charges, announced that he would not attend the summit for personal reasons.

President Donald Trump (C-L) and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (C-R) stop for tea, in the presence of First Lady Melania Trump (R), in the terminal of King Khalid International Airport following Trump's arrival in Riyadh on May 20, 2017.

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After Saudi Arabia, Trump will head to Israel and the Palestinian Territories where he hopes to revive the moribund peace process.

President Donald Trump is tweeting for the first time while overseas on his first foreign trip.

His visit to the Gulf is expected to bring lucrative arms contracts for USA firms.

"The big question mark that you should bear in mind is if Saudi Arabia signs up for a $100 billion arms deal with oil prices where they are today, how are they actually going to pay that in the future?" said Bruce Riedel, former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and counterterrorism expert now with the Brookings Institution.

White House officials hope the trip gives Trump the opportunity to recalibrate after one of the most hard stretches of his young presidency.

As president, he then introduced two travel bans for several predominantly Muslim countries for "security reasons", though he and his administration insist that these were not "Muslim bans".

After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and meet with allies at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.



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