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Obama aides consult Saudis ahead of Riyadh visit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's advisers consulted a top Saudi Arabia official ahead of Obama's visit to Riyadh in late March in a flurry of White House activities relating to the Middle East.

Obama will visit Saudi Arabia as part of a trip that will also take him to Europe. He has some fence-mending to do with the Saudis, who have been concerned that the U.S. drive for a nuclear agreement with Iran will end sanctions against Tehran too quickly.

Two top White House officials - national security adviser Susan Rice and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco - met on Wednesday with Saudi Arabia's powerful Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

They discussed security cooperation and efforts to address violent extremism and terrorism across the Middle East, a White House statement said on Thursday.

"They also exchanged views on regional issues and committed to continuing to strengthen our cooperation on a range of common interests," said the statement from Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

Obama is engaged in Middle East policy on a number of fronts.

He will meet Jordan's King Abdullah on Friday at the historic Walter Annenberg estate called Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, where Obama held talks last June with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At that session, the two leaders are expected to discuss the civil war in Syria, Middle East peace and other regional issues.

Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled the war and have spilled into Jordan, putting pressure on Abdullah's government.

Abdullah met on Wednesday with Vice President Joe Biden and discussed how best to address violent extremism fueled by the Syrian conflict and the need for greater humanitarian access inside Syria.

Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 in Washington, for discussions likely to include Iran's nuclear program as a key topic. Netanyahu has deep concerns about an interim nuclear deal achieved between the United States and other Western powers and Iran.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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