Saudi FM: Calls for leadership change a 'red line'

Adel al-Jubeir takes to airwaves to defend Prince Mohammed and terms Khashoggi's killing as 'unfortunate accident'.

    Journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder was an "unfortunate accident" and any discussion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible and may not take the throne is "outrageous", the foreign minister said.

    In a series of interviews on Wednesday, Adel al-Jubeir reiterated that calls for Prince Mohammed to be held accountable for Khashoggi's shocking killing are a "red line".

    "We will not tolerate any discussion of anything that is disparaging towards our monarch or our crown prince," Jubeir told the BBC.

    On other television networks, Jubeir steadfastly defended Prince Mohammed despite a CIA assessment reportedly saying there was "high probability" that he ordered the murder.

    "We have made it very clear that Saudi Arabia's government is not involved in this and the crown prince is not involved in this at all," he told US network CNBC.

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    The foreign minister was also asked about a Reuters news agency report this week that quoted Saudi sources saying a move was in play to prevent Prince Mohammed from ascending the throne after his father, King Salman, 82.

    "These are outrageous comments that have been made and are totally unacceptable. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to its leadership," he said.

    "The crown prince has the confidence of every Saudi citizen, including King Salman. The crown prince is the architect and driving force behind the reform programme in Saudi Arabia and the Vision of 2030," Jubeir told CBS.

    In a statement on Wednesday, Reuters said: "We stand by our story."

    'Punish individuals'

    Khashoggi - a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post and had been critical of Prince Mohammed - was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, killed and his body was reportedly dismembered.

    After lengthy denials, Saudi authorities admitted responsibility and said 21 people involved in the "rogue operation" had been taken into custody.

    "We have made that very clear. We have investigations ongoing and we will punish the individuals who are responsible for this," said Jubeir.

    President Donald Trump had on Tuesday said the United States would not take punitive measures against the kingdom or the crown prince over Khashoggi's murder.

    Trump said the US intends to remain a "steadfast partner" of Saudi Arabia - even though "it could very well be" that Prince Mohammed had knowledge of Khashoggi's killing.

    The president added he did not intend to cancel tens of billions of dollars worth of military deals with Saudi Arabia, saying "if we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries". 

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    'Unblemished partners'

    Trump on Wednesday ignored criticism that he gave Saudi Arabia a free pass on Khashoggi's murder, instead praising Riyadh for keeping oil prices low.

    US defence chief James Mattis reiterated Trump's stance to stand by the kingdom.

    "On the Khashoggi affair, presidents don't often get the freedom to work with unblemished partners in all things," said Mattis on Wednesday.

    He highlighted the brutal war in Yemen that the Saudi-Emirati coalition has waged since 2015.

    "If you want to end the war, you're going to deal with Saudi. You can't say, 'I'm not going to deal with them'," the Pentagon head said.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News