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Saudi crown prince departs Riyadh for two-week U.S. visit

20 Mars 2018

In Houston, he will visit the Aramco Research Center, part of the state-owned Saudi oil conglomerate, as well as an Aramco-owned refinery in Port Arthur, Tex.

The senior official spoke to reporters in Washington ahead of the crown prince's arrival to the White House on Tuesday. The aim is to strengthen their bond after he rolled out the red carpet for the USA president last May in Riyadh.

During Prince Abdulaziz' visit to the Philippines, he also conveyed the "personal and warm wishes of the His Majesty and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to the President", Roque said.

Since then, things have changed.

In November, MBS arrested hundreds of business elite, members of the royal family and government ministers under the pretense of a corruption purge.

President Donald Trump walking with Mohammed bin Salman, next in line for Saudi Arabia's throne, during a White House visit in 2017.

Saudi Arabia has opposed the nuclear deal since it was signed by Iran and five world powers in 2015, saying it did not go far enough to curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The crown prince has also faced criticism for launching a deadly military offensive in Yemen.

There are also companies the Saudis are courting to help shift their economy away from oil.

The crown prince's tour will also include New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles - as he looks for possible investments.

Saudi Arabia leads a coalition fighting the Houthi rebels, who are allegedly backed by Iran, but has come under criticism for strikes on civilian targets and blockades of humanitarian aid.

There were accusations of abuse by relatives and associates of the detained. Others were stripped of their wealth without due process.

Bin Salman defended as "necessary" the campaign that was seen as a purge against dissent before the crown prince's rise to power. The recent dismissal of Rex Tillerson from his position as Secretary of State means he may be closer to terminating it. Mohammed bin Salman's crackdowns on the Binladin construction group and Prince Turki bin Abdullah, a leading investor in Riyadh's public transit systems, underscore his desire to gain control over the construction and real estate industries in Saudi Arabia. "We certainly do. But naturally, we are working to mend these shortcomings", he said.

Prince Mohammed has won Western plaudits for seeking to ease Saudi Arabia's reliance on oil, tackle chronic corruption and transform the kingdom.

The changes have been hailed as proof of a new progressive trend towards modernisation in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom, although the gender-segregated nation continues to be criticized for its continued constraints on women. "I'm not Gandhi or Mandela", he said in an interview with CBS aired on Sunday. "This is just the beginning". At the same time, US business leaders are leery of investing in the kingdom, where Mohammed recently arrested - and relieved of more than $100 billion in assets - a number of homegrown capitalists and wealthy royal relatives.

Saudi crown prince departs Riyadh for two-week U.S. visit