RIYADH, (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney held three hours of talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Saturday as the Americans step up diplomatic efforts to halt Iraq’s descent into chaos.
Cheney and King Abdullah made no comment after the talks which had been expected to focus on Middle East issues.
With Iraq near all-out civil war, the Bush administration is renewing efforts to break the cycle of violence there by enlisting the help of moderate Arab nations.
The United States wants Saudi Arabia to use its influence with Iraq’s Sunni minority to help stabilise the country. On Thursday, car bombs killed more than 200 people in a Shi’ite stronghold in Baghdad in the worst attack since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Cheney was met in Riyadh by Crown Prince Sultan, government ministers and leaders of the Saudi armed forces, before travelling to the U.S. embassy in the Saudi capital and the monarch’s palace.
President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are due to meet next week.
Bush and Maliki will discuss security in Iraq at their meeting, in what is shaping up to be a crisis summit.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will also join Bush in Amman. She will then attend an annual Middle East conference in Jordan, where key Arab players may meet on the sidelines to discuss Arab-Israeli issues.
The surge in violence in Iraq came as U.S. public discontent with the Iraq war was hammered home in Nov. 7 elections in which Bush’s Republican Party lost control of both houses of Congress.