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Saudi Prince To Stress Shared Goals Involving Iran In U.S. Visit

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has sometimes exchanged hostile statements with Iran. (file photo)

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman will visit the White House on March 20 with a shared goal of addressing alleged "flaws" in the Iran nuclear deal and countering Iran's involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts, officials say.

"Our view of the nuclear deal is that it's a flawed agreement," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington on March 19, using a description previously used by U.S. President Donald Trump to criticize a deal he has threatened to abandon.

Since Trump took office last year and visited Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip, Riyadh and Washington have strengthened ties and sought to work together on mutual goals involving Iran.

"We've called for tougher policies towards Iran for years," Jubeir said, noting Trump's substantially tougher policies toward Tehran in the past year.

"We're looking at ways in which we can push back against Iran's nefarious activities in the region," Jubeir said, citing Tehran's backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in a seven-year civil war and support for Shi'ite Huthi rebels battling the government in Yemen.

Jubeir asserted that Iran had a "vision of darkness" for the region and that "light always triumphs over darkness."

Iran had no immediate response to his comments. Tehran denies Saudi charges that it interferes in regional affairs and has objected to changes Trump is seeking in the nuclear deal.

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.

Saudi state news agency SPA said Prince Muhammad left for the United States on March 19 on his first visit there since becoming heir apparent to the Saudi throne. He is expected to make stops in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston.

Muhammad, in his role as his country's defense minister, has sometimes exchanged hostile statements with Iran, but he also is known for his ambitious campaign as economy minister to modernize the deeply conservative kingdom.

On his trip, officials said Muhammad is seeking to convince U.S. and Western investors and businesses that far-reaching reforms, such as allowing women for the first time to drive, have made his country a more tolerant society and better place to do business.

On March 20, he is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House and visit with some members of Congress. He is expected to court support in the United States by offering $35 billion in commercial deals for U.S. companies.

Muhammad has been praised by some Western leaders for seeking to ease Saudi Arabia's reliance on oil for economic growth while tackling chronic corruption and seeking to transform the Sunni Muslim kingdom into a modern society.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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