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Saudi Prince has gone ‘full gangster’, says US Senator Marco Rubio

US Senator Marco Rubio has accused Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of going “full gangster” and urged President Donald Trump’s nominee for Ambassador to Riyadh to hold the country accountable for human rights abuses.

“He’s gone full gangster,” Politico news quoted Rubio as saying on Wednesday.

The Florida Senator added that the Saudi royal was “reckless, ruthless” and “increasingly willing to test the limits of what he can get away with”.

Rubio’s remark came during retired General John Abizaid’s nomination hearing on Wednesday to be the Trump administration’s first ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi list of offences, Rubio and other lawmakers noted during the hearing, include the killing of civilians in the US-supported conflict in Yemen, the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the alleged torture of an American citizen and the detention of women’s rights activists.

The ambassadorial nominee however, stressed that the US relationship with the Saudis was bigger than the Crown Prince, and that the best way to change conditions in the Arab kingdom was through engagement.

“It is in our interest to make sure that the relationship is sound,” Abizaid said.

Since taking office, Trump hasn’t had an ambassador in Riyadh. He announced he would nominate Abizaid in November, after the Khashoggi killing drew outrage in Washington.

 

IANS

 

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India

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince calls Modi, Imran Khan; stresses dialogue

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Thursday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, stressing the importance of dialogue and communication in resolving differences.

The Crown Prince said in a tweet that he talked to Modi and Khan, and stressed the “importance of dealing wisely with recent developments and giving priority to dialogue and communication”.

The Crown Prince is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The tweet came a day before the meet of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in which India — for the first time, has been invited as guest of honour at the plenary.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after India struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan on Tuesday following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

Pakistan sought to target some Indian military installations next day and in the ensuing aerial fight, both countries lost a fighter jet.

Pakistan has decided to release on Friday Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was taken in its custody after his MiG-21 went down in Pakistan-occupied territory.

IANS

 

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India

Congress questions Modi’s move to personally receive Saudi Prince

The Congress on Wednesday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to personally receive Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who praised Pakistans “anti-terror” efforts and asked if it was Modis way of honouring the CRPF troopers killed by a suicide bomber in Kashmir.

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala also asked if Modi will show courage to ask Saudi Arabia to undo their Joint Statement with Pakistan that has “virtually rejected” India’s demand for designating Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”.

“National interests versus Modiji’s ‘hugplomacy’ breaking protocol, grand welcome to those who pledged $20 billion to Pakistan and praised Pakistan’s ‘anti-terror’ efforts. Is it your way of remembering martyrs of Pulwama?” Surjewala said in a series of tweets.

Congress questions Modi's move to personally receive Saudi Prince

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Pakistan will be very important in future; Saudi Crown Prince

Visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has expressed optimism about the economic future of Pakistan, saying his country had been waiting for a leadership like that of Prime Minister Imran Khan to partner with Islamabad in various areas.

Addressing a reception dinner on Sunday night at the Prime Minister House hours after he landed here, the Crown Prince said Pakistan was a “dear country” to all Saudis and that the two countries “have walked together in tough and good times”, Dawn news reported.

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future and we want to be sure we are part of that,” he said.

“Pakistan today has a great future in store with a great leadership.”

The Saudi royal said his country would collaborate with Pakistan economically, politically and in terms of security. “We believe in our region, that is why we are investing in it.”

“This is my first trip (to the) east since I became the Crown Prince (in 2017) and the first country (that I have visited) is Pakistan,” he added.

Before the dinner, the two countries signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) for bilateral cooperation worth $20 billion.

The deals include exploration of investment opportunities in refining and petrochemical sectors; cooperation in the field of sports; financing agreement for the import of Saudi goods; power generation projects; and development of renewable energy projects.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan during his speech at the reception dinner said that Saudi Arabia had always been a “friend in need” to Pakistan.

He invited Riyadh to avail opportunities from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pakistan’s close links with Beijing.

The Prime Minister also put forward two requests in front of the Crown Prince: First, he requested the Saudi royal to allow Pakistani Haj pilgrims to undergo immigration at the three major Pakistani airports before leaving for Saudi Arabia for their convenience.

Second, Khan urged the Saudi authorities to look into the hardships of the Pakistani labourers working in the Kingdom.

Also on Sunday, Khan and the Crown Prince held a one-on-one meeting which was followed by the inaugural session of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council, Dawn news said.

Amid heightened security and arrangements in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the Crown Prince arrived at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi on Sunday evening. He was received by the Prime Minister, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior Cabinet Ministers.

The Crown Prince was given a 21-gun salute.

Breaking protocol, Khan personally drove the Saudi royal to the Prime Minister’s House.

The visit was initially scheduled for February 16, but was delayed by a day for unknown reasons.

After Pakistan, the Crown prince will travel to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

IANS

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World

Saudi Prince told aide he would use ‘a bullet’ on Khashoggi; NYT

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a top aide in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was murdered last October, if the latter did not return to the Kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, a New York Times report said.

The conversation, intercepted by American intelligence agencies, is the most detailed evidence to date that the Crown Prince considered killing Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington post, long before a team of Saudi operatives murdered him inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and dismembered his body using a bone saw, the report said on Thursday. 

According to informed officials, the conversation that took place between Prince Mohammed and the aide, Turki Aldakhil in September 2017, has been transcribed and analysed as part of an effort by intelligence agencies to find proof of who was responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and other American intelligence agencies are now sifting through years of the Crown Prince’s voice and text communications that the NSA routinely intercepted and stored, The New York Times quoted the officials as saying.

Also in September 2017, Khashoggi began writing opinion columns for The Washington Post, and top Saudi officials discussed ways to lure him back to the country, the officials said.

In the conversation, Prince Mohammed said that if Khashoggi could not be enticed back to Saudi Arabia, then he should be returned by force.

If neither of those methods worked, the Crown Prince said, then he would go after the slain journalist “with a bullet”.

At the time of the conversation, Prince Mohammed was in the midst of consolidating power in the Kingdom, The New York Times said.

Just months earlier, his father, King Salman, elevated him to second in line to the throne.

Later that year, Prince Mohammed ordered hundreds of influential businessmen and Saudi royals, some who had been considered contenders to the throne, locked up at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where they were interrogated.

Days before the conversation with Aldakhil, according to the informed officials, Prince Mohammed complained to another aide, Saud al-Qahtani, that Khashoggi had grown too influential.

The Crown Prince Mohammed said that Khashoggi’s articles and Twitter posts were tarnishing the his image as a forward-thinking reformer.

Responding to the report, Aldakhil said on Thursday night: “These allegations are categorically false. They appear to be a continuation of various efforts by different parties to connect His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to this horrific crime. These efforts will prove futile.”

A Saudi official also issued a statement saying: “We again deny any involvement on the part of the Crown Prince in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Meanwhile, UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard presented preliminary findings on Thursday saying that Khashoggi’s murder was the consequence of a plan hatched by officials of the Kingdom.

“Evidence collected during my mission to Turkey shows prime facie case that Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia,” Callamard said.

Callamard, who travelled to Turkey with a team that included a serious-crime investigator and a forensics expert, said she found that Saudi Arabia was hindering and undermining Turkish authorities’ efforts to elucidate the circumstances of the journalist’s death.

She said her team will continue their investigation in the upcoming weeks and she urged anyone with any information about the assassination to come forward.

The team’s final report will be presented in June to the UN Human Rights Council.

IANS