Saudi billionaire sets Trump feud aside, eyes U.S. meeting

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi business magnate Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Thursday put aside his bitter clash with Donald Trump and embraced the Republican U.S. president-elect, saying he was heartened by reports that Trump had appeared to delete online references to his proposed ban on Muslims.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal attends the traditional Saudi dance known as 'Arda', which was performed during Janadriya culture festival at Der'iya in Riyadh February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Fayez Nureldine/Pool/File Photo

Prince Alwaleed, in a wide-ranging telephone interview on CNBC, said he planned to meet Trump in the United States soon.

“I have no problem with him right now, and I’m very happy to interact with him,” he said on CNBC. “Candidate Trump, for sure, is not like President-elect Trump and then President Trump ... He is progressing in the right direction.”

ABC News and Britain’s the Independent reported that Trump’s statement calling “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” had been scrubbed from his campaign website.

Prince Alwaleed also cited reports that Trump had deleted some of his posts on Twitter referencing Muslims.

Representatives for the Trump campaign could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier on Thursday, Prince Alwaleed congratulated Trump on his presidential victory via Twitter, almost a year after the two had clashed on the social media site.

“President elect @realDonaldTrump whatever the past differences, America has spoken, congratulations & best wishes for your presidency,” the prince tweeted.

In December 2015, Prince Alwaleed had called Trump a “disgrace” and demanded he withdraw from the election after the property developer’s pledge to ban Muslims entry into the United States raised hackles in the Middle East.

The next day, Trump responded by tweeting: “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.”

On Thursday, Prince Alwaleed said he did not regret criticizing Trump during the campaign but that he hoped a Trump presidency would be different than what he promised during his campaign.

The prince also said the Middle East needs some reassurance from Trump that the Arab world remains an ally. World leaders also want to know Trump is committed “to all of the international treaties that he had,” he said on CNBC.

Prince Alwaleed, the billionaire chairman of Kingdom Holding Co who also owns shares of several U.S. companies, said he has high expectations for U.S. economy.

There are no more excuses for Republicans, who will preside over the White House as well as in Congress, “not to deliver this growth that is expected from them,” he told CNBC.

Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing By Noah Browning; Editing by William Maclean and Bill Trott