US President Bush on 17 November selected James Oberwetter, an oil industry lobbyist with a long-standing relationship with the Bush family, as the next US ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Oberwetter, who at present serves as the senior vice president of governmental and political affairs for Texas-based Hunt Oil, is also a member of the general committee on communications of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the main oil industry lobby in Washington. API represents more than 400 members involved in all aspects of the oil and natural gas industry. Oberwetter, has also served as chairman API and has extensive political connections in Washington. He also worked for the US Environmental Protection Agency after serving during the early 1990s as press secretary to then US Congressman George Bush, father to the present president. The US Senate must approve the selection of Oberwetter.
The appointment of a new ambassador comes at a difficult time in US-Saudi relations. Washington has been pressurising Riyadh to crack down on Islamists living in the kingdom. Relations between the countries have been particularly strained due to the US-led invasion of Iraq and Washington's continued support for Israel.