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White House 'disappointed' Jerusalem Post reporter denied Saudi visa

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday said it was "deeply disappointed" and a journalists' group said it was outraged after Saudi Arabia denied a visa to a U.S. citizen working for Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post to cover President Barack Obama's trip to the kingdom later this week.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel, but has said it is willing to change that if Israel agrees to a peace plan it proposed that involved creating a Palestinian state and allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes.

"We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa," White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. "We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision."

The Jerusalem Post said on its website that Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice and her deputy, Tony Blinken, had expressed displeasure to Saudi Arabia over the delay in processing reporter Michael Wilner's application and its potential refusal.

The paper said Wilner is a Jewish American who does not hold Israeli citizenship and has never lived in Israel.

Wilner was the only member of the White House press corps denied a visa, said the White House Correspondents' Association, a group that represents journalists. Wilner is an associate member of the organization.

"It is outrageous that the Saudi government has refused to allow a White House reporter entry to the country to cover this week's visit of President Barack Obama," the group said in a statement.

"The denial is an affront not only to this journalist, but to the entire White House press corps and to the principle of freedom of the press that we hold so dear," the group said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Tom Brown)

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