Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah postpones France visit

* Top oil exporter’s monarch postpones visit to France

* France keen to build ties with G20, OPEC member

* Newspaper quote in June caused “furore” among Saudis

By John Irish and Sophie Taylor

PARIS, July 9 (BestGrowthStock) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has
postponed a visit to France that would have seen him open an
exhibition of Saudi’s archaeological treasures at the Louvre
museum and possibly attend the July 14 national day festivities.

A spokesman at the kingdom’s embassy in Paris confirmed on
Friday that the visit had been postponed and a new date had not
yet been set. He declined to give further details.

The Saudi monarch had been scheduled to meet President
Nicolas Sarkozy as the two countries look to develop their
relationship ahead of France taking over the G20 chairmanship
next year. Saudi Arabia is the only Arab member among the bloc
of leading economic powers.

The world’s largest oil exporter said on July 5 it was also
preparing to sign an agreement on cooperation in civilian
nuclear energy during the visit.

Both countries have been in talks for more than one year but
have yet to disclose details about the cooperation.

The Saudi spokesman declined to give a reason why the trip
had been postponed. The octogenarian has had a busy schedule in
the last few weeks.

He attended the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada at the end of
June, embarked on a state visit to Washington to hold talks with
President Obama on the Middle East peace process and flew to a
presidential retreat at the start of July in Morocco.

GOOD RELATIONS?

An article that appeared on the website of Le Figaro
newspaper on June 30, caused a “furore” among Saudi offcials,
French daily Le Monde reported on Friday, citing a source.

The king was quoted telling the defence minister that
neither Iran nor Israel had a right to exist. It was
subsequently denied on the official Saudi press agency.

“We have excellent relations with Saudi Arabia,” French
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero when asked on Friday
if relations between the two countries had soured. “This is
speculation that casts not the slightest shadow on our excellent
relationship.”

Valero said the visit had not been announced by either side,
suggesting it was not a state visit.

France’s relations with Saudi Arabia since Sarkozy came into
office have been mixed compared to with Riyadh’s neighbours,
possibly down to the generation gap.

Sarkozy has boosted both economic and political ties with
the world’s largest producer of liquefied natural gas Qatar,
which itself has had a frosty relationship with Riyadh. Last
year, France set up a naval base in the United Arab Emirates.

Still, Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has given the green light to
sign a nuclear cooperation deal with France and at the start of
July, French engineer Alstom (ALSO.PA: ) was shortlisted for a 10
billion euro ($12.68 billion) contract to supply trains and
equipment for a high-speed railway linking Saudi Arabia’s holy
cities to the Red Sea coast.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah postpones France visit