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Saudi Arabia defends prince from Khashoggi murder claims

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Saudi Arabia defends prince from Khashoggi murder claims
Saudi Arabia defends prince from Khashoggi murder claims. Reuters/H. Mohammed
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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Tuesday that any allegations implicating Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi have "no basis in truth."

Jubeir told the Saudi-owned Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper in an interview that the kingdom "categorically" rejects such charges as they are not backed up by "conclusive evidence."

"The leadership of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the king and the crown prince, is a red line, and we will not permit attempts to harm or undermine them," he added.

The foreign minister's comments came after the US Central Intelligence Agency reportedly concluded over the weekend that the crown prince gave the order to kill Khashoggi. The agency was expected to brief US Donald Trump on its findings later Tuesday.

Close allies

Trump has thus far avoided pointing the finger at Prince Mohammad, although Washington has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in the murder plot, including two of the prince's aides.

Khashoggi — a Washington Post contributor who often wrote critical columns about the kingdom's leadership — was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi Arabia has offered several contradictory versions of the journalist's demise. After initially insisting he had left the consulate alive, officials later claimed he had died in a fistfight, before saying a hit-squad carried out the killing as part of a rogue mission.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the orders for the killing came from "the highest levels" of the Saudi government.

France, Germany take action

The Saudi public prosecutor last week exonerated Crown Prince Mohammed and announced the arrest of 21 suspects. He said 11 people had been charged in connection with Khashoggi's killing, including five who could face the death penalty.

Germany announced on Monday that it would slap an entry ban on 18 Saudis with alleged links to the murder. Hours later France followed suit, saying it too was planning sanctions against the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia — one of the French defense industry's most important customers bought €1.38 billion ($1.58 billion) worth of weapons from France last year.

nm/rt (Reuters, AP)

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