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US-SAUDI IN TALKS

PARIS: US Secretary of State John Kerry sought yesterday to calm rising tensions with Saudi Arabia, which has spurned a UN Security Council seat in fury at inaction over the crisis in Syria.

Saudi Arabia rejected a coveted two-year term on the council on Friday in a rare display of anger over what it called "double standards" at the UN.

Its stance won praise from its GCC allies and Egypt.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal hosted a lunch for Kerry at his private residence in Paris yesterday.

US officials said Washington and Riyadh shared the goals of a nuclear-free Iran, an end to Syria's civil war and a stable Egypt.

A senior State Department official said that Kerry cited the advantages of being on the 15-member body, which can authorise military action, impose sanctions and set up peacekeeping operations.

"He conveyed that while it is Saudi Arabia's decision to make, the US values Saudi leadership in the region and the international community," the official said.

The council has been paralysed over the 31-month-old Syria conflict, with Russia and China repeatedly blocking measures to condemn Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Saudi is also frustrated over US acquiescence in the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and its new quest for a nuclear deal with Iran.

No country has previously been elected to the council and then walked away.



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