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Pressure is growing on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met King Salman in Riyadh.

Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Turkish officials believe the journalist was murdered by Saudi agents but the Saudis have denied this.

However, US media are reporting that the Saudis may be preparing to admit that Jamal Khashoggi died as a result of an interrogation that went wrong.

Overnight, Turkish police completed a search of the consulate after being admitted by Saudi authorities.

Mike Pompeo and King Salman have now met in Riyadh.

While much of what was discussed during has yet to be announced, the US State Department said that Mike Pompeo had used the time to thank the king for his “commitment to a thorough, transparent investigation” into Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance: Turkish Officials Have Evidence Proving Saudi Murder

Jamal Khashoggi: Missing Washington Post Journalist Killed at Saudi Consulate in Istanbul?

The secretary of state was also expected to seek further clarification over a conversation between the king and President Donald Trump on October 15.


Tweeting earlier about the call, President Trump said: “Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened “to our Saudi Arabian citizen.” He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!”

The president later told reporters: “The denial was very, very strong. It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?”

There is a lot at stake given the strength of Saudi-US ties. President Trump has already ruled out cancelling a lucrative arms deal, although he did threaten “severe punishment” if the kingdom were found to be responsible for the death.

On October 15, King Salman ordered an investigation into the missing journalist. Saudi statements up to now have dismissed allegations of a killing as “baseless” and “lies”.

Mike Pompeo is also expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his day in Riyadh. The secretary of state may then head to Turkey.

The New York Times and on CNN reported, quoting unnamed sources, that Saudi Arabia would acknowledge that Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong and the intention had been only to abduct him from Turkey.

This may explain in part President Trump’s “rogue killers” line.

Who such killers could be and how it fits into reports of a Saudi team being dispatched to the consulate before Jamal Khashoggi’s arrival will presumably need to covered.

Jamal Khashoggi’s family in Saudi Arabia issued a statement calling for an “independent and impartial international commission”.

President Donald Trump has urged Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to combat the rising cost of fuel.

He tweeted that he had asked King Salman of Saudi Arabia to raise oil output by up to two million barrels a day.

President Trump said the move was needed due to “turmoil and dysfunction in Iran and Venezuela”.

Oil prices rose last week, partly due to US plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer.

The OPEC group agreed to increase output, as did Russia, but this failed to reassure markets.

The Saudi Press Agency confirmed that President Trump and King Salman had spoken by phone, giving few details. According to the news agency, they had discussed the need to “preserve the stability of the oil market”.

However, the statement did not confirm that Saudi Arabia had agreed to the two million barrels a day figure.

Image source Public Domain Pictures

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Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and produced about 10 million barrels a day in May. The country is reported to have between 1.5 million and two million barrels a day of spare capacity – but experts told The Wall Street Journal it might not be keen to meet the president’s request.

A Saudi official told the WSJ: “Saudi Arabia does not really like going beyond 11 million barrels a day and has no intention of expanding its current production capacity. It is expensive.”

Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized OPEC even though US ally Saudi Arabia is a core member.

On April 20, President Trump tweeted that oil prices were “artificially very high”, saying this was “no good” and “will not be accepted!”

Iran, another OPEC member, has accused Donald Trump of trying to politicize the group and has blamed Riyadh for doing his bidding.

On June 30, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US was trying to drive a wedge between Iranians and their government using “economic pressure”.

He cautioned on his website: “Six US presidents before him tried this and had to give up.”

The value of Iranian currency, the rial, has tumbled since the US backed out of the Iran nuclear deal in May.

Earlier this week, thousands of traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar marched in protest against rising prices and the plummeting value of the rial. It was the biggest protest Tehran has seen since 2012.

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin of Saudi Arabia and seven other officials have been killed in a helicopter crash near the country’s border with Yemen, state media report.

The prince – the deputy governor of Asir province – was returning from an inspection tour when his aircraft came down near Abha on November 5, the interior ministry said.

It did not give a cause for the crash.

The incident came hours after a major purge of Saudi Arabia’s political and business leadership.

An anti-corruption body led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the detentions of dozens of people, including 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of ex-ministers.

Image source Radio Pakistan

Saudi Arabia: 11 Princes, 4 Sitting Ministers and Dozens of Former Ministers Detained on Corruption

King Salaman of Saudi Arabia Replaces Crown Prince

Analysts see the unprecedented move as an attempt to cement the power of the heir to the throne.

Prince Mansour was the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former intelligence chief who was crown prince between January and April 2015, when he was pushed aside by Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman.

The late prince served as a consultant to his father’s royal court and in April 2017 was among 8 young royals appointed deputy governors.

An interior ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said Prince Mansour and seven provincial officials had boarded a helicopter on November 6 to tour a number of coastal projects west of the city of Abha.

The statement also said: “While returning in the evening of the same day, contact with the plane was lost in the vicinity of the Reda reserve.

“The authorities are currently searching for survivors as the wreckage has been found.”

Later, state news channel al-Ikhbariya announced the death of Prince Mansour.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has issued a new decree allowing women to drive for the first time.

Campaigners have hailed the decision with one female activist calling it a “great victory”, while another said things would “never be the same again”.

The US ambassador in Saudi Arabia has described the move as “the right decision at the right time”.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving – and women are still subject to strict dress codes and gender segregation.

Until now, only men were allowed licenses and women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined.

Meanwhile, Latifah Alshaalan, a member of the Shura council, a government advisory panel, told broadcaster Al Arabiya: “This is a great victory for many Saudi women. This was the one file and issue which Saudi women have fought not just years, but decades for.”

A ministerial body will be set up to give advice within 30 days and the royal order will be implemented by June 24, 2018.

Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, Prince Khaled bin Salman, confirmed that women would not have to get male permission to take driving lessons, and would be able to drive anywhere they liked.

Image source Wikimedia

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Rights groups in Saudi Arabia have campaigned for years to allow women to drive, and some women have been imprisoned for defying the rule.

Female activists organized collective protests in 1990, 2011 and 2013, and posted online videos of themselves driving.

In recent years, some members of Saudi Arabia royal family have expressed support for ending the ban.

In 2016, the government launched the Vision 2030 plan to modernize the economy – which was seen as a sign Saudi Arabia was moving towards reform.

The move was welcomed by the US state department, which called it “a great step in the right direction”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres echoed that sentiment.

Manal al-Sharif, an organizer of the Women2Drive campaign who has also been imprisoned for driving, said on Twitter that Saudi Arabia would “never be the same again”.

Not everyone reacted positively, however, with conservative voices accusing the government of “bending the verses of Sharia”.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reinstated bonuses and special allowances for civil servants and military personnel that had been cut in September 2016 as part of austerity measures when oil revenues were low.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud fired his civil service minister and put him under investigation for abuse of office.

The king also named his son Prince Khalid as new ambassador to Washington.

King Salman’s decrees saw a new national security centre created under the Royal Court.

Photo Getty Images

He also ordered two months extra salary be paid to frontline military personnel taking part in Saudi-led operations in Yemen.

Prince Khalid is a fighter pilot who has trained in the US and carried out air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

The decree said the pay cuts for ministers and government employees – the first in Saudi Arabia, where about two-thirds of working Saudis are employed in the public sector – had been in response to falling oil prices, which sank to a low of $28 a barrel in January 2017.

The oil price has since risen to about $52 a barrel and ministers said budgetary performance had been better than expected in Q1 of 2017.

Under the cuts, ministers had their salaries reduced by 20% and housing and car allowances for members of the advisory Shura Council were cut by 15%.

Wage increases for lower-ranking civil servants were suspended, and overtime payments and annual leave capped.

Salaries and allowances accounted for 45% of government spending in 2015, or $128 billion, and contributed to a record budget deficit of $98 billion.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has ordered a safety review for the annual Hajj pilgrimage after at least 717 people died in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca.

Another 863 people were injured in the incident at Mina, which occurred as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite.

It is the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years.

King Salman said there was a need “to improve the level of organization and management of movement” of pilgrims.

The crush occurred after two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other from different direction at an intersection close to the Jamarat Bridge in Mina.

As part of the Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mina, a large valley about 3 miles from Mecca, to throw seven stones at pillars called Jamarat, which represent the devil. The pillars stand where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.

The crush is the second disaster to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Offering condolences to the relatives of the dead and injured, King Salman said: “We have instructed concerned authorities to review the operations plan and to raise the level of organization and management to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals in comfort and ease.”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayyef, who chairs the Hajj committee, has begun an inquiry into the tragedy.

Interior ministry spokesman, Major General Mansour al-Turki, said the reason for the unusual number of pilgrims at the site of the disaster was “not known yet”.

Health Minister Khaled al-Falih promised a “fast” investigation and said the crush occurred “perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities”.

Iran has fiercely criticized Saudi Arabia’s handling of the pilgrimage.

Announcing three days of national mourning, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “The Saudi government should accept the responsibility of this sorrowful incident… Mismanagement and improper actions have caused this catastrophe.”

The disaster began at 09:00 local time on September 24.

Gen. Mansour al-Turki said: “The great heat and fatigue of the pilgrims contributed to the large number of victims.”

The temperature in Mina was 46C on September 24.

Photographs showed the bodies of dozens of pilgrims on the ground, some piled high. They were all dressed in the simple white garments worn during the Hajj.

Pope Francis, who is visiting the US, expressed his “sentiments of closeness” with Muslims, during a prayer service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

Mirandole public beach in southern France that was closed for King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reopened after he cut his trip short.

King Salman had been due to stay for three weeks on the French Riviera, but left after only eight days to travel to Tangiers in Morocco.

The beach in Vallauris was closed for King Salman’s trip, causing uproar among locals.

The beach was reopened on August 3, and a lift installed for King Salman was being dismantled.Mirandole beach King Salman mansion

“All the security measures are gradually being lifted,” the region’s sub-prefect Philippe Castanet told France Bleu.

Jean-Noel Falcou, a town councilor in Vallauris who lodged a petition against the changes to the beach, welcomed the news that it had reopened.

“All the illegal building work, all the trouble it caused, all the refusal of dialogue by the French state – all of that for only eight days of holiday for the Saudi king,” he wrote on his Facebook page on August 3.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition against the closure of the beach. Critics of the move said it was a breach of French laws on equality.

The Mirandole beach is directly below King Salman’s private villa and French officials agreed to seal it off for the monarch’s security.

Building the lift had involved pouring a large concrete slab on the sand.

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King Salman of Saudi Arabia has decided to cut short his luxury trip to France, where the closure of a French Riviera beach for his security caused uproar.

King Salman unexpectedly flew on to Morocco after only eight days of what was planned as a three-week stay, officials said.

With the king was at least half of his 1,000-strong entourage, regional official Philippe Castanet added.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition against the closure of the public beach at Vallauris.

The Mirandole beach is directly below King Salman’s private villa and French officials agreed to seal it off for the monarch’s security.King Salman French Riviera beach closure

Critics of the move said it was a breach of French laws on equality.

A Saudi source quoted by Reuters said King Salman’s departure was part of his vacation program and not connected to the media coverage the visit had attracted.

It is not clear if the king plans to return to the villa this summer.

Philippe Castanet told AFP news agency that the beach would reopen to the public on August 3.

He said a temporary lift connecting the beach with the villa – which had also angered local residents – would be removed in the coming weeks.

Building the lift had involved pouring a large concrete slab on the sand.

The royal party generated mixed emotions among the local population.

While some were unhappy at the closure of the beach, many traders warmly welcomed King Salman and his wealthy entourage.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has fired the head of royal protocol, Mohammed al-Tobayshi, days after he was filmed slapping a photographer.

In a decree published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) news agency on May 5th, the royal house gives no reason for Mohammed al-Tobayshi’s removal.

TV footage seemingly showed Mohammed al-Tobayshi hitting the photographer while King Salman greeted Morocco’s King Mohammed at Riyadh airport on May 3rd.

A royal decree named Khalid al-Abbad as the replacement of Mohammed al-Tobayshi, the SPA reported.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

King Salman’s decision was welcomed by Saudis on social media networks.

After the video was posted online, many had accused Mohammed al-Tobayshi of abusing his authority.

“This is a great day for journalists and media figures,” journalist Abdullah al-Bergawi told Gulf News.

“Removing the head of the royal protocol in support of a journalist is a clear consolidation of the status of the media and a victory for journalism.

“King Salman is again showing that no-one is above the law and that all people, officials or not, are to be held responsible for their words and deeds and for not respecting people’s right to dignity.”

Last month, King Salman banned a senior member of the royal family, Prince Mamdouh bin Abdul Rahman, from taking part in all sports activities and speaking to the media after he made remarks considered racist during a TV talk show.

King Salman also replaced Ahmed Al-Khatib as health minister earlier in April after he was filmed having a heated argument with a member of the public who had come to speak to him about the condition of a hospital in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has announced a major cabinet reshuffle, a week after he acceded to the throne following King Abdullah’s death.

The chief of intelligence and the head of the national Security Council have both been replaced.

Other top officials, including the ministers of defense, oil, and foreign affairs, have kept their jobs.

The governor of Mecca and the governor of the capital Riyadh were replaced as were several senior religious officials.Kin Salman of Saudi Arabia announces new cabinet

King Salman – who was a half-brother of the late King Abdullah – also gave a bonus of two months’ salary to all Saudi state employees and military personnel. Pensioners and students received similar bonuses.

The changes were announced in 30 royal decrees.

“Dear people: You deserve more and whatever I do will not be able to give you what you deserve,” King Salman said later on his Twitter account.

The king asked citizens to “not forget me in your prayers”.

The Saudi Press Agency said King Salman had relieved intelligence chief Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud of his post.

General Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah al-Humaidan becomes the new intelligence chief, with cabinet rank.

A nephew of the late king, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was removed from his posts as secretary general of the National Security Council and adviser to the king.

Two of King Abdullah’s sons were also removed – Prince Mishaal, governor of the Mecca region, and Prince Turki, who governed the capital Riyadh.

The Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf remain in the cabinet.

Another of King Abdullah’s sons, Prince Mutaib, stays as minister of the National Guard.

King Salman also replaced several senior religious officials, removing two clerics regarded as comparative liberals who headed the Justice Ministry and Religious Police.

Hours after King Abdullah died on January 23, Salman appointed one of his own sons, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as defense minister.

He named another of King Abdullah’s half-brothers, Prince Muqrin, who is in his late 60s, as the new crown prince.

Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, was appointed deputy crown prince, making him second in line to the throne and effectively smoothing the line of succession for years to come.

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King Salman of Saudi Arabia has pledged continuity, hours after his accession to the throne following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah.

The new king moved swiftly to appoint heirs and ministers, including one prince from the ruling dynasty’s third generation.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died last night, weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

He was buried in an unmarked grave in Riyadh, following Friday prayers.

King Abdullah’s burial was conducted in line with the traditions of Wahhabism – the ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam followed by the kingdom – where funerals are austere and simple.

His body was wrapped in a shroud and taken by ambulance to the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh.

Following prayers, which were attended by Gulf heads of state as well as foreign leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif, King Abdullah’s body was taken to a public cemetery and buried.King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Within hours of acceding to the throne of the oil-rich kingdom, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 79, vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors.

“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” the king said in a speech broadcast on state television.

King Salman’s profile was updated on his official Twitter account, where he wrote: “I ask God to help me succeed in my service of the dear [Saudi] people.”

He named another of King Abdullah’s half-brothers, Muqrin, who is in his late 60s, as the new crown prince.

Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, was appointed deputy crown prince, making him second in line to the throne and effectively smoothing the line of succession for years to come.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is a grandson of King Abdulaziz, usually referred to as Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. The crown has so far passed between Ibn Saud’s sons, but few are still alive.

King Salman also appointed his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, as defense minister. Other ministers, including foreign, oil and finance, were kept in place, state TV reported.

King Salman spent 48 years as governor of Riyadh province before becoming crown prince and defense minister.

King Abdullah came to the throne in 2005 but had already been Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader for 10 years because his predecessor, King Fahd, had been debilitated by a stroke.

Abdullah was said to be aged about 90. He had suffered frequent bouts of ill health in recent years, and King Salman had recently taken on the ailing monarch’s responsibilities.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to King Abdullah as a leader who “was always candid and had the courage of his convictions”. Vice-President Joe Biden said he would lead a delegation to Riyadh to pay respects.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised King Abdullah’s “grounded, considered and responsible leadership”, while Iran offered Saudi Arabia its condolences and said its foreign minister would travel to Riyadh for an “official ceremony” on Saturday.

However, human rights groups said Saudi Arabia’s human rights record had been poor under King Abdullah.

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Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, acceded to the throne on the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah, on January 23.

King Salman, 79, was governor of Riyadh province for 48 years before becoming defense minister in 2011 and crown prince a year later.

He had already taken on the duties of the king as Abdullah’s health faded.

King Salman is part of an influential faction within the royal family formed of sons and grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz (usually referred to as Ibn Saud) by a favorite wife, Princess Hassa al-Sudairi.

After the deaths of the former king, Fahd, who ruled from 1982 until 2005, and two previous crown princes, Sultan and Nayef, Salman was already the most powerful surviving member of this faction.

As governor of Riyadh, Salman oversaw its transformation from an isolated desert town into a crowded city of skyscrapers, universities and Western fast-food chains.King Salman of Saudi Arabia

The post raised Salman’s international profile as he hosted visiting VIPs and envoys and helped secure foreign investment.

As defense minister Salman was head of the Saudi military as it joined the US and other Arab countries in air strikes in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State militant group.

King Salman’s sons include:

  • Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz
  • Prince Faisal, the governor of Medina
  • Prince Sultan, the head of the tourism authority and a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot and astronaut.

King Salman is not believed to be as personally interested in political or social reform as his predecessor and his priority will be to maintain stability in Saudi Arabia.

Commentators have drawn attention to King Salman’s reputation as a mediator within the huge Saudi royal family, with its complex network of competing factions.

This task has become more fraught as the second tier of senior political posts in Saudi Arabia – the control of key ministries and governorships – has passed from the sons to grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz.

King Salman’s own Sudairi faction within the family, once a powerful and united group of seven full brothers, has itself developed internal rivalries as the sons of those brothers establish their own power bases.

The king’s health has also been a concern. He is reported to have suffered at least one stroke that has left him with limited movement in his left arm.

Correspondents say King Salman has appeared alert and well-briefed in recent meetings but, given his age, there are concerns about his stamina.

After becoming king, Salman announced that the new crown prince would be his half-brother Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the youngest surviving son of the late King Abdulaziz.

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