CBS explains Kingdom’s policy on Khashoggi, Yemen, Iran and women rights

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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that as leader of the kingdom, he takes full responsibility for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, because it involved people working for the government, but categorically denied ordered the killing.

In a wide-ranging interview with Norah O’Donnell, the anchor of CBS Evening News, the Crown Prince was also asked about the current tensions with Iran, the war in Yemen and women’s rights.

On the murder of Khashoggi he said: “This was a heinous crime … But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government,” he said in the interview that was aired on Sunday

“When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials, working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility. This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future,” the Crown Prince added.

On whether or not he knew of the operation, the Crown Prince said: “Some think that I should know what three million people working for the Saudi government do daily. It’s impossible that the three million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second-highest person in the Saudi government.”

Asked about CIA reports regarding his alleged involvement in the murder, the Crown Prince challenged the agency to make their information public. “If there is any such information that charges me, I hope it is brought forward publicly.” he said.

He also said that no journalist is a threat to Saudi Arabia, and that on the contract, what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, is the real threat to the kingdom.

According to US intelligence agencies, Khashoggi’s murder was enacted upon orders given by Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Khashoggi, who was a journalist with The Washington Post and a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was killed on October 2 last year in Turkey where he had gone to obtain paperwork certifying his divorce from his former wife Alaa Nassif in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.

After presenting several contradictory theories, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate premises in what it had described as a “rogue operation”.

Relations with Iran

Prince Mohammed said that he believed the Sept. 14 attacks were an act of war, but he added that he would prefer to see a peaceful resolution to the current tensions.

He said: “Because the political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.”

He said a war with Iran would mean the total collapse of the global economy. He called for US President Trump to sit at the table with the Iranians – something he blamed the latter for its failure to happen.

The strikes against the oil-processing facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais resulted in knocking off 50 percent of the Kingdom’s oil production, or about five percent of global energy supply.

Women’s rights

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a massive series of reforms which has seen women’s rights improved, with the lifting of the driving ban and the guardianship requirement which prevented women from traveling without the consent of a male family member.

Norah O’Donnell asked him about allegations Saudi female activist Loujain Al-Hathloul had been tortured in prison.

“If this is correct, it is very heinous. Islam forbids torture. The Saudi laws forbid torture,” he said, adding: “Human conscience forbids torture. And I will personally follow up on this matter.”