Saudis Bar JPost Reporter From Covering Obama's Trip There

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 08:51 PM

By Sharon Churcher

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The Saudi government is refusing to allow the Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief to cover President Barack Obama's trip to the Arab kingdom.

In a move that the White House Correspondents Association called "outrageous," Michael Wilner is purportedly the only member of the Washington press corps who has been denied a visa for the trip.

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The Post reported that the Saudis ignored "firmly worded requests" to grant the application, which were made by U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and presidential assistant Tony Blinken to Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.

The newspaper added: “Rice and Blinken separately expressed extreme displeasure at the delay and the prospect of a denial.’’

The White House said it has complained about the denial.

"We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision."

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with Obama en route to Belgium on Tuesday, however, that the Saudi Arabian trip would not be reconsidered.

"No," he said. "Look, we have disagreements with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues. We obviously have had disagreements in the past as it relates to some issues associated with Israel, some issues associated with human rights.

"But we also share a significant set of interests with Saudi Arabia. They’re a very important partner of ours in the Gulf, and we believe it's better to have the type of relationship where we can cooperate but also be clear and honest with one another where we have differences," Rhodes said.

The correspondents association said:

"It is outrageous that the Saudi government has refused to allow a White House reporter entry to the country to cover this week’s visit of President Barack Obama.

"The denial is an affront not only to this journalist but to the entire White House press corps and to the principle of freedom of the press that we hold so dear.’’

In an editorial, the Jewish Press accused the Saudis of  "plain old anti-Semitism."

"Wilner, a Jewish American, works for the Israeli English-language newspaper but does not hold Israeli citizenship and has never lived in the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia has no official relationship with the government of Israel,’’ the editorial said.

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