WASHINGTON (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince has an ambitious list of to-dos: modernize his conservative kingdom, weaken Iran’s hand across the Mideast and, this week, rehabilitate his country’s image in the eyes of Americans.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman and heir to the throne, is opening a marathon tour of the United States with a stop in Washington, where he plans to meet President Donald Trump today. He’ll hold separate meetings with a long roster of influential U.S. officials, including the secretaries of defense, treasury and commerce, the CIA chief and congressional leaders from both parties.

The visit comes as the United States and much of the West are still trying to figure out Crown Prince Mohammed, better known by his initials MBS, whose sweeping program of social changes at home and increased Saudi assertiveness abroad has upended decades of traditional rule in Saudi Arabia. The 32- year-old crown prince also has big economic plans, and over three weeks in the U.S. he will meet businessmen in New York, tech mavens from Google and Apple Inc. in San Francisco, and entertainment bigwigs in Los Angeles. Other stops include Boston and Houston.

“This is not the real Saudi Arabia,” MBS said when asked by CBS News about the repressive version of Islam many outsiders associate with the kingdom. He said he was restoring the more tolerant, egalitarian society that existed before Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservatives were empowered in 1979. “We were victims, especially my generation that suffered from this a great deal.”

It’s a message that has earned MBS admirers in the United States, as he allowed women to drive and opened movie theaters shuttered since the 1980s. MBS is turning “Saudi Arabia into a normal country in which normal people lead normal lives,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters Monday.



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