Crown prince dismisses Trump remarks about reliance on US

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — File

Azzam Tamimi, a friend who had lunch with Khashoggi in London on the day before he went to the consulate in Istanbul, said in an interview Sunday that he had been reassured about entering the consulate by his warm reception on an earlier surprise visit.

Analysts said that while the claim of a state-sponsored killing of the Washington Post contributor was unconfirmed, it would seriously damage the prince's credentials as a reformer if true.

Saudi Arabia has since March 2015 spearheaded a regional military intervention in Yemen, in support of a government that is fighting rebels backed by Riyadh's arch-rival Iran.

Prince Mohammed, however, dismissed Trump's harsh words as "misunderstandings".

"We are now above US$300 billion, we're getting close to US$400 billion", he said.

The 33-year-old crown prince, who was named heir to the throne in June 2017, has garnered global attention with his rapid rise to power as well as social and economic reforms. Bin Salman was also asked about the fate of Saudi activists detained prior to the lifting of the driving ban imposed on women.

"With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform", Khashoggi wrote in his first column for the Post.

In an interview Friday with Bloomberg reporters, the Saudi crown prince said he was "very keen to know what happened" to Khashoggi.

Khashoggi's alleged murder - if confirmed - threatens to undermine Riyadh's already strained relations with Ankara, and the fallout could also reach the United States, a key ally, experts said.

Using the Washington Post platform, Mr. Khashoggi took the risky step of publicly calling out his government's continued policy blunders from the disastrous war in Yemen, the jailing of Saudi royals and business people in the Riyadh Ritz Carlton almost a year ago, the imprisonment of Saudi activists, from women's rights defenders to poets and intellectuals, to the overreaction to Canada's tweet supporting jailed Saudi human-rights activists.

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Bessma Momani is a professor at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

Late on Wednesday, surrounded by advisers, Prince Mohammed said the IPO was "100%" in the nation's interest.

Khashoggi had remained in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year, where he maintained close ties with former and current U.S. officials, including some members of the Trump administration.

He said the USA had made a request to Saudi Arabia and other Opec countries cover the likely loss of supply from Iran and that has been done.

One Turkish official told The Associated Press earlier Saturday night: "The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul".

And it's not restricted to Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh and Ankara stand on opposite sides of the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours.

Also on Sunday, the prominent rights group, Amnesty International, issued a statement noting that if Khashoggi's murder is proven, it would amount to extrajudicial execution.

His disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Human rights campaigners have also demanded that the Saudi authorities clarify the issue.

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