Egypt's president in Saudi Arabia for talks with new king

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2015 10:38 AM
Egypt's president in Saudi Arabia for talks with new king

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday for his first policy meeting with the country's king ahead of a conference aimed at shoring up financial support from wealthy Gulf states for Egypt's battered economy.

A Saudi official told The Associated Press the two leaders discussed el-Sissi's proposal for a joint anti-terrorism force to tackle regional threats, particularly from Yemen, Libya and Syria. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

In an interview with the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya news channel broadcast this weekend, el-Sissi said the force would not be used for attacking "but for defending the security of our countries."

He said Jordan has expressed interest in creating such a force, which could include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Egyptian troops already are deployed on Saudi Arabia's border with Iraq to help defend it against radical militants, according to Egyptian military and security officials.

King Salman and other royals greeted el-Sissi at the airport. El-Sissi spent roughly four hours in the kingdom, a key organizer of the investment conference scheduled to take place later this month in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh.

It marks the first meeting for the two since audio was leaked in February of el-Sissi allegedly poking fun at the Gulf's immense oil wealth and saying "money there is like rice." Members of his inner circle also purportedly derided Gulf countries as "half-states" and said they need Egypt's help to defend themselves.

Egyptian authorities say the tapes were fabricated by ousted President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group.

El-Sissi was last in Saudi Arabia in January to offer condolences after the death of King Abdullah. Under Abdullah's rule, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations gave Egypt billions of dollars in aid after el-Sissi, then a military general, overthrew Morsi in 2013.

Salman is scheduled to meet Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong critic of Egypt's Brotherhood crackdown. El-Sissi criticized Turkey in his Al-Arabiya interview, saying it "needed to halt its interference in Egypt."

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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.