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Obama Administration 'Deeply Disappointed' Saudi Arabia Denied Jerusalem Post Reporter's Visa

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NEW YORK -- The Obama administration said Tuesday it's "deeply disappointed" that Saudi Arabia has denied Jerusalem Post reporter Michael Wilner a visa to cover President Barack Obama's visit this week.

The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that Wilner, who serves as both White House reporter and Washington bureau chief, "was the only journalist denied access to the president's trip." Both White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice and deputy adviser Tony Blinken made unsuccessful pleas for Saudi Arabia to grant the visa, according to the paper.

"We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Tuesday in a statement to The Huffington Post. "We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision."

Wilner, a Jewish American journalist, "does not hold Israeli citizenship and has never lived in the Jewish state," according to the paper. While Saudi Arabia doesn't have a relationship with the Israeli government, the Jerusalem Post noted that previous reporters with similar backgrounds have reported from the Gulf nation.

"I am an American journalist covering the travel of an American president," Wilner said in a statement to HuffPost.

"We consider it unfortunate that Saudi Arabia would deny any legitimate reporter the ability to complete that work -- much less one properly credentialed, in the White House press corps, expressly invited on the trip," Wilner continued. "We have little doubt that my access was denied either because of my media affiliation or because of my religion. That is a grave disappointment, and a lost opportunity for the Kingdom."

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, is ranked 164 out of 180 countries this year in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index. The Committee to Protect Journalists included Saudi Arabia on its list of the 10 most censored countries in the world.

UPDATE: 4:12 p.m. -- McClatchy's Steve Thomma, president of the White House Correspondents Association, condemned the Saudi government's decision in a statement on behalf 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.

Michael Wilner, who covers the White House for the Jerusalem Post, had signed up to cover the visit and sought a visa along with the rest of the White House Press corps.

On Monday, he was the only one denied a visa. He had planned to travel straight to Saudi Arabia to cover that part of the president's trip.

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.

Wilner is an associate member of the White House Correspondents Association.

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