After Israel, George W Bush’s Middle East tour has taken him to Saudi Arabia for a lightning trip dominated by talks on oil prices and Iran. Amid growing pressure to act against record fuel prices, the US president is renewing his appeal for OPEC to increase its output. He is also expected to try to shore up Arab support for his efforts to contain Iran’s growing influence and its nuclear power programme.
Other agreements to cooperate on nuclear energy and oil security as well as initiatives to combat nuclear terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are also expected to be concluded.
But while US and Saudi leaders are expected to find common ground on Iran, Bush’s request for King Abdullah to respond to calls to pump more oil into world markets is expected to fall on deaf ears. OPEC blames high oil prices on speculators rather than a shortage of supply.
Bush travels on to Egypt at the weekend for talks with Palestinian leaders, in his bid to boost a stalled Middle East peace process before the end of his tenure next January – a deadline widely regarded as unrealistic.