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Saudis reject CIA report on writer's killing

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-03 09:55

Portraits of Jamal Khashoggi are displayed at a protest outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Khashoggi's murder a thorn as Washington seeks to 'recalibrate' decades-old alliance

UNITED NATIONS-Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations on Monday disputed a US intelligence report that concluded that the Saudi crown prince approved an operation to kill or capture self-exiled writer Jamal Khashoggi, saying in a tweet: "Let us all move forward to tackle the serious business of world issues!!"

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said the newly declassified CIA report "is based on could've, should've and would've and does not rise to anywhere close to proving the accusation beyond reasonable doubt".

Though US intelligence officials stopped short of saying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing in October 2018, the four-page document described him as having "absolute control "over the kingdom's intelligence organizations and said it would have been highly unlikely for an operation like the killing to have been carried out without his approval.

Mouallimi said on social media: "The prince courageously accepted moral responsibility, presented the accused to the justice system, and pledged to reform the intelligence organizations. Case closed!"

The document released on Friday echoed what has long been known about the killing: A 15-member Saudi team, including seven members of the prince's elite personal protective team, arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, and were at the Saudi consulate where Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding.

US President Joe Biden released the intelligence report which had been classified under former president Donald Trump.

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on the Rapid Intervention Force-meaning any US transactions with it will be a crime-and said it was banning entry into the United States of 76 Saudis under a new policy against foreign officials who harass alleged dissidents.

Biden has sought to "recalibrate "the decades-old Saudi alliance and has already said the US will end support for offensive operations in the devastating Saudi war in Yemen.

The whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains are unknown, and the Saudis have not released the names of those tried and sentenced.

In his tweets, Mouallimi rebutted the CIA finding that the crown prince "must've known because he controls the intelligence system".

"If this is a valid argument why weren't the (US) president, vice-president, and the secretary of defense held accountable for the Abu Ghraib crimes?" he asked, referring to the Iraqi prison where photos became public in 2004 showing US soldiers abusing detainees.

Ratcheted-up pressure

The CIA report ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew widespread outrage.

"We are very focused on future conduct and that is part of why we have cast this not as a rupture, but as a recalibration" of US-Saudi relations, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a news conference on Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressured on Monday to explain why the crown prince had not been sanctioned. It had sparked anger from some members of Congress and Khashoggi supporters.

Psaki reiterated that historically the US doesn't sanction leaders of foreign governments it has diplomatic relations with, but she said when asked whether the administration reserves the right to sanction the crown prince in the future if deemed necessary: "Of course, we reserve the right to take any action at a time and manner of our choosing."

Agencies - Xinhua

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