Saudi Arabia demanded on Thursday that the U.S. State Department retract a claim that King Abdullah met Israel's president last year. William Burns, undersecretary at the State Department, told a conference on U.S.-Saudi ties in Washington earlier this week that the Saudi leader spoke with Shimon Peres at a U.N. conference on dialogue among world religions in New York late last year.
Both Peres and King Abdullah attended the U.N. interfaith meeting and gave speeches, but in public they were not seen talking to each other. "The comments by the State Department undersecretary are absolutely baseless and made up," a statement from an "official source" on the state news agency SPA said.
"The official source demanded that the State Department retract the news and offer an explanation and clarification of the reasons behind this falsehood that does not serve relations between the two friendly countries."
The Saudi response came after an online video posted on a Saudi opposition website showed Burns hailing the Saudi monarch's efforts to promote inter-faith dialogue. "On the margins of an inter-faith dialogue session last fall, the king spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres -- the first such exchange between Saudi and Israeli leaders," Burns said. "King Abdullah is also the first Saudi leader to meet the Pope," the American diplomat added.