France and Saudi Arabia agree on need to curb Iran's 'expansionism'

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Paris: France and Saudi Arabia were aligned on counter-terrorism, Syria, and the importance of cultural exchanges, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron said at a joint press conference on Tuesday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron and the Saudi heir had already dined for almost three hours Sunday at the Louvre museum, with the young French leader later tweeting photos of them in front of Eugene Delacroix´s "Liberty Leading The People".

The dinner, held behind a tight security cordon, sets the tone for the official part of the visit starting Monday, which follows a weeks-long tour of the United States, Britain and Egypt where he courted a host of multimillion dollar deals.

The prince's delegation was also attending a forum on Tuesday with French business leaders, which is expected to lead to a host of agreements pledging future economic deals.

Lawyer Joseph Breham, representing a Yemeni human rights group, is suing the crown prince, now in France on an official visit, for his leading role in the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

After a tense first exchange between the two leaders in Riyadh last November that was dominated by a difference of opinion on how to handle Riyadh's regional rival Iran, Mr. Macron and Prince Mohammed sought to get to know each other and work on what they have in common rather than their differences.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian greeted the crown prince and his royal entourage and bevy of Cabinet ministers in a low-key arrival.

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Macron faces seething criticism over French weapon exports to Saudi Arabia, including Caesar artillery guns, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles, despite the kingdom's role in the Yemen crisis.

The announcement that Saudi Arabia will make its first official appearance at France's Cannes film festival came after Prince Mohammed dined last week in Hollywood with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, along with film studio bosses and famed American actors including Morgan Freeman.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman and French President Macron had a private dinner in a restaurant in the Louvre museum on Sunday.

Macron's mediation, which led Hariri to travel to Paris and then rescind his resignation, was seen by analysts as exposing the limits of Prince Mohammed's authority.

For Breham, the lawsuit is a way to draw attention to the tragedy unfolding in Yemen, which according to the U.N.is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

France traditionally has been a major arms supplier to the Saudis, but French officials said no big weapons contracts were planned to coincide with the crown prince's three-day official visit.

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