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Saudi king backs son, praises judiciary amid furore over Khashoggi murder

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Riyadh: Saudi King Salman stood by the crown prince and heaped praise on the judiciary , in his first public remarks since critic Jamal Khashoggi’s murder tipped the country into one of its worst crises.

The public prosecutor last week exonerated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s son, of involvement in the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, but the CIA reportedly concluded he had ordered the assassination.

The prosecutor called for the death penalty against five men, announced indictments against 11 people, and said a total of 21 individuals were in custody in connection with the killing.

“The kingdom was founded on Islamic principles of justice and equality, and we are proud of the efforts of the judiciary and the public prosecution,” the 82-year-old monarch said in his annual address to the Shura Council, a top advisory body.

“We ensure that this country will never deviate from implementing God’s law without discrimination,” he added, without directly addressing the murder of The Washington Post columnist in his speech.

In Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, only the king has the authority to oust the powerful crown prince –- who faces intense global criticism over the murder –- but he has repeatedly indicated that he has no intention to do so.

In his speech, the king praised his son’s economic reform program aimed at creating jobs for a swelling youth population and preparing the kingdom for a post-crude era.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television reported the prince will attend the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Argentina, his first overseas trip since the murder.

In a show of defiance, the prince will come face-to-face with international leaders from Turkey, the United States and other European nations at the two-day summit that begins November 30.

“The crown prince is sending a very clear message to the international community that nothing they say or do over the Khashoggi affair will interfere with Saudi decision making,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the United States.

“Effectively, he is daring his international critics to put their rhetoric into action and betting that they won’t.”


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In rebuke to Trump, US Senate blames Saudi crown prince for Khashoggi’s murder

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Washington: The US Senate delivered a rare double rebuke to President Donald Trump on Saudi Arabia , voting to end US military support for the war in Yemen and blame the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The votes were largely symbolic because to become law the resolutions would have to pass the House of Representatives, whose Republican leaders have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis.

In a historic move, Senators voted 56-41 to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and spawned what the United Nations calls the world’s most dire human crisis, with the country on the brink of famine.

It was the first time either chamber of Congress had backed a resolution to withdraw US forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act. That law, passed in 1973, limits the president’s ability to commit US forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval.

Seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Senate Democrats to back the measure.

Immediately after the Yemen vote, the Senate backed a resolution blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s murder and insisting that Saudi Arabia hold accountable anyone responsible for his death.

Khashoggi, a US resident who was a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The Senate vote, which was unanimous, puts pressure on House leaders to allow a vote on the Khashoggi resolution this month, before Congress adjourns for the year.

“Unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and sponsor of the resolution.

Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and the prince, despite a CIA assessment it was likely he ordered Khashoggi’s killing. He promised to veto the war powers resolution.

Opponents of the resolution are reluctant to take any action to disrupt the strategic US relationship with Saudi Arabia, seen as an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran, arch-enemy of close US ally Israel.

Administration officials also see Saudi support as a linchpin for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan yet to be unveiled by the Trump administration. And they have argued that ending US support could complicate Yemen peace talks.

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US to counter China, Russia’s influence in Africa

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WASHINGTON: The United States plans to counter the rapidly expanding economic and political influence of China and Russia in Africa, where the two nations use corrupt and predatory business practices, US national security adviser John Bolton said.

The United States’ No 1 priority will be developing economic ties with the region to create opportunities for American businesses and protect the independence of African countries, as well as US national security interests, he said in prepared remarks.

“Great-power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa,” Bolton said. “They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.”

Bolton’s speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, comes as US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s two largest economies, seek to resolve trade disputes that have roiled global markets and created economic uncertainty.

“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption,” Bolton said in his remarks.

Bolton had equally harsh words for Russia. “Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance,” he said.

He accused Moscow of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations, “votes that keep strongmen in power, undermine peace and security, and run counter to the best interests of the African people”. Bolton said the “predatory practices” used by China and Russia stunt economic growth in African and threaten its nations’ economic independence.

China’s development policies in Africa have been a concern for Washington as the United States seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of Chinas global ambitions.

The head of the US Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) said in July that China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable.

Bolton contrasted China’s “bait and switch” policies in Africa to the American approach. “The way we do business is much more straightforward,” he said.

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4 dead, 43 injured after high-speed train crashes into overpass in Turkey

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ANKARA: At least four persons died and over 43 injured after a high-speed train crashed into an overpass in Turkish capital Ankara, reported the country’s media.

A video footage uploaded by Posta Gazetesi, a Turkish daily newspaper, showed mangled metal remains of the train. Emergency workers were seen rescuing people from the accident site.

The accident took place at the overpass at the Marsandiz train station, to the west of Ankara at around 6:30 am (9 am IST) as the train was travelling between Ankara and the central Turkish province of Konya.

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