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Monday 23rd May 2022 / 21 Shawwal 1443

Saudi crown prince approved killing of Jamal Khashoggi: US report

WASHINGTON: The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a declassified assessment of the killing released to the Congress by US intelligence agencies on Friday.

The assessment, which was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and relied heavily on information gathered by the CIA, said the agencies assessed that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi.

The report also confirmed the long-suspected view that Mohammed bin Salman had a personal hand in the violent and planned murder of one of his most prominent critics in 2018, a writer and former Saudi insider who was living in expel in the US and used his platform to condemn the prince’s crackdown on dissent.

Today’s release of the assessment was expected to be accompanied by further actions from the Biden government, which is likely to be unveiled by the State Department.

It based the assessment on the prince’s “control of decision-making in the kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of the prince’s shielding detail in the operation, and his support for the using violent steps to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi”.

The decision to issue the report and expected move to issue further actions represents the first major foreign policy decision of Joe Biden’s presidency, months after he vowed on the presidential campaign trail to make a pariah out of the kingdom.

Earlier the day, US President Joe Biden told Saudi King Salman he would work for bilateral ties “as strong and transparent as possible,” the White House said, ahead of the expected release of a sensitive US intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden and Salman discussed regional security and other issues and the new US president told the Saudi monarch that “he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible,” the White House said.

“The two leaders affirmed the historic nature of the relationship,” the White House said in a statement. It did not mention the Khashoggi report, a test of the decades-long close ties between the allies as they try working together to confront growing Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Biden later told reporters the call, their first since he took office last month, was “good”. A Saudi news agency statement also sounded a positive note. It said Salman congratulated Biden on assuming the US presidency and that the pair stressed “the depth” of bilateral ties and the “importance of strengthening the partnership.”

The statement, which also did not mention the Khashoggi report, said the leaders reviewed “destabilizing” Iranian regional activities, the US “commitment to defend” Saudi Arabia “against such threats” and assurance from Biden not to allow Iran “to possess nuclear weapons.”

Biden has said he wants to maintain strong ties with one of Washington’s closest Arab allies. “Our administration is focused on recalibrating the relationship,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told an earlier briefing. “And certainly there are areas where we will express concerns and leave open the option of accountability.”

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