Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Obama wanted to discuss with the new Saudi King Salman the fight against Islamic State, the volatile situation in Yemen and talks on ending a long-running dispute about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
               
"We do believe that Saudi policy will remain quite similar to how it's been under King Abdullah," he said, adding Obama wanted to forge the same kind of "close relationship" with Salman as he had with his predecessor.
               
"They didn't always agree, they were candid in their differences, but they were also were able to do a lot of things together," he said.
               
Obama's visit comes as Washington struggles with worsening strife in the Middle East, where it counts Saudi Arabia among its few steady partners in a campaign against Islamic State militants who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.
               
The U.S. security headache worsened last week with the resignation of Yemen's government after clashes in the capital involving Iran-backed rebels -- a setback to U.S. efforts to contain al Qaeda in that country and to limit the regional influence of Shi'ite Muslim Iran.
               
The Yemen government's collapse is of deep concern to Saudi Arabia because of the long border they share and because of the advance of Iran, the main regional rival of Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia.
               
The Saudi role in rallying Arab support for action with Western countries against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, has won praise in Washington, which along with other Western nations values the kingdom as an important market for its defence industries.

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