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Absent from Obama summit, Bahrain king to visit UK horse show

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa has skipped a Gulf Arab summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, and will instead join Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at a horse show and also discuss bilateral relations with her.

King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa attends Arab summit in Riyadh in this file photo taken on January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed

Like Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, King Hamad has decided to send his crown prince to the United States in his stead, in a perceived snub over Obama’s drive to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, the arch-rival of America’s traditional Gulf Arab allies.

The no-shows have reduced the prestige of the May 13-14 gathering and may undercut its ability to resolve U.S.-Gulf rifts over how to deal with Iran and wars in the region.

A Bahrain royal court statement said the king would leave for Britain on Thursday at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth to attend “the joint yearly celebration at Windsor” -- an apparent reference to the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

It added: “His Majesty the King and Queen Elizabeth II will hold a meeting to review the longstanding mutual ties between both royal families in addition to the progress and development of bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields.”

A media representative at the horse show told Reuters that King Hamad was expected at the high society event which begins on Wednesday at Windsor Castle outside London and will be attended by the British royal family.

Bahrain, a Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom, has been a sponsor of an endurance race scheduled for Friday for the last three years.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told the country’s official news agency the monarch’s absence from the Camp David summit was “due to a longstanding prior engagement of His Majesty the King in the United Kingdom”.

The king still seeks to “further bolster friendly relations” between Bahrain and the U.S., he added.

Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is attending the Camp David summit, met the Queen at the Royal Ascot horse race this week before flying to Washington.

Reporting by Noah Browning and William Maclean, editing by Sami Aboudi and Crispian Balmer