By The Associated Press
The Latest on U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast:
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — U.S. President Joe Biden met with Egypt’s president in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office in 2021.
Biden was heard thanking President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for Egypt’s role in a ceasefire to Israel’s war with Hamas last year in the Gaza Strip, an acknowledgement of Cairo’s role in the region.
“Looking forward to working with you on a whole range of issues,” Biden was heard also saying to el-Sissi.
Egypt’s president, who came to power following mass protests and a military takeover that ousted the divisive Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, is facing an economic crisis as inflation from rising fuel and food prices hits the Arab world’s most populous nation particularly hard. Around a third of Egypt’s 103 million people live in poverty.
Although the former military strongman has been credited with stabilizing Egypt’s economy following several years of political turmoil, the country is among the world’s largest importers of wheat, with much of that from now-blocked Ukrainian ports.
Meanwhile, el-Sissi’s government has not hesitated to deploy brute force while jailing thousands of people, mainly Islamists, but also secular activists in an effort to quash dissent.
In recent months, his government released hundreds of detainees and embarked on a so-called national dialogue with various groups, but the government continues to hold many high profile detainees, including pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah. Egyptian security forces have been accused of torturing detainees, including concerns economist Ayman Hadhoud was among those beaten to death while in police detention this year.
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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — President Joe Biden began his final day in Saudi Arabia by meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who survived an assassination attempt with explosive drones last year.
Some in the country have blamed the attack Iranian-backed factions. It came amid soaring tensions and a stand-off between Iraqi security forces and pro-Iran Shiite militias over election results.
Biden said he wanted to support Iraq’s democracy.
“I want the press and you to know we want to be (as) helpful as we can in doing that,” he said.
Al-Kadhimi spoke about the “strategic, friendly relationship” between the U.S. and Iraq, and he thanked the U.S. for providing support to combat terrorist groups.
An estimated 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq to support the country’s fight against the Islamic State.
Biden is in Jeddah attending a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The leaders of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan are also attending.
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