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Kerry aims to reassure America’s Arab friends, reiterates support

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry moved Sunday to reassure America’s Arab friends that the United States will not allow them to be attacked “from outside,” in an apparent warning to Iran.

Speaking in Egypt while en route to Saudi Arabia, where he hopes to mend relations strained by Saudi unhappiness with U.S. actions in Syria, its tentative warming with Iran and stance on Egypt, Kerry acknowledged differences with some partners but stressed they share common goals.

In addition, he said Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the Gulf could count on America’s support. “The United States will be there for the defense of our friends and our allies,” Kerry told reporters in Cairo. “We will not allow those countries to be attacked from outside. We will stand with them.”

He specifically mentioned the Sunni majority states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt, along with unspecified “others.” Those others likely would include Israel, the strongest U.S. ally in the region. All have vested interests in seeing an end to the turmoil in Syria and are extremely wary of Shiite Iran’s regional intentions.

But Saudi officials have been the most vocal. They have complained that the U.S. did not follow through on its threat to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad militarily for his government’s use of chemical weapons.

Last month, the Saudis won but turned down an elected seat on the U.N. Security Council, saying the body had proved itself largely meaningless because of its inability over two years to address the crisis in Syria. The Saudis also have watched with increasing nervousness as President Barack Obama approved a cautious opening with their archrival Iran.

Kerry met late Sunday in Riyadh with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and will see King Abdullah today.

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