Riyadh: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday promoted a missile shield to protect Gulf states from Tehran and sought to work with them to help end the violence in Iran's ally Syria.
In a speech to a first multilateral Gulf-US security forum, Clinton stressed Washington's "rock solid and unwavering" commitment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, all long-standing US allies.
Clinton highlighted US concerns about Iran ahead of a broader international meeting in Istanbul aimed at ending President Bashar Al Assad's crackdown in Syria.
Raising security ties from a bilateral to a multilateral level, Clinton is breaking new ground here in taking part in the first strategic cooperation forum between Washington and the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
She looked to taking "practical and specific steps to strengthen our mutual security, such as helping our militaries improve interoperability, cooperate on maritime security and missile defence, and coordinate responses to crises".
US officials have said it is a US "priority" to help the GCC build a "regional missile defence architecture" against what they see as a looming ballistic missile threat from Iran.
Clinton said she looked "forward to discussing the wide range of common strategic concerns, including preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and curbing its interference in the affairs of its neighbours".
Arming Yemen rebels
US Central Command chief General James Mattis has meanwhile warned that Iran was sending support, including "weapons, not just money" to Al Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, and trying to "influence the non-Al Houthi tribes" as well.
The United States also suspects Iran is sending arms to Al Assad's regime to help him crush a pro-democracy movement.
Clinton also looked forward to talks with the GCC on "ending the bloodshed in Syria and supporting the peaceful transitions under way in North Africa and across the region, and fully integrating Iraq into regional affairs".
In Clinton's talks on Friday with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, the two sides discussed ways to tighten sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, another State Department official said.
"They talked about keeping the global oil supply strong, and the essential role Saudi Arabia plays in that," the official said.