White House ‘categorically’ denies dissuading US companies from going to Saudi Arabia

“These are decisions that they obviously can and should make for themselves,” a senior White House official said.

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The White House on Monday “categorically” denied trying to dissuade American companies and business leaders from attending this week’s “Davos in the desert” in Saudi Arabia.

Reports citing current and former US officials suggested that the Biden administration was trying to pressure American companies against expanding business ties with Saudi Arabia amid a rift between Washington and Riyadh over a decision by OPEC+ to cut oil output.

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Asked what the consequences might be for US businesses attending this week’s conference in Riyadh, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said: “We don’t have a message for corporate leaders that are attending the [conference]… These are decisions that they obviously can and should make for themselves.”

In the aftermath of the OPEC+ decision, the Biden administration launched a heavy media campaign against Riyadh and held it responsible for what it said was a “shortsighted decision.”

The White House also said that the OPEC+ move was a “mistake” and accused the organization of “aligning with Russia.”

In response, Saudi Arabia denied the accusations and said Biden administration officials had asked for the oil cuts to be announced after the November midterm elections in the US.

Record inflation and rising gasoline prices are major hurdles for Democrats to overcome as they fight to retain hold of both chambers of the US Congress.

Washington also called for a reevaluation of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, with several Democratic lawmakers going as far as demanding an immediate halt to arms sales with the kingdom.

Nevertheless, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden would not rush to decide on what steps to take in response.

And on Monday, Kirby said there was no truth to reports that the US was discouraging Americans from pursuing business ties in Saudi Arabia. “It is absolutely, categorically false that we were talking to business leaders and trying to dissuade them from going [to the conference in Saudi Arabia].”

Read more: Saudi FM defends OPEC+ decision, says ties with US are strategic

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