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In ‘60 Minutes’ interview, Saudi crown prince denies ordering Khashoggi killing

Bin Salman says he takes 'full responsibility' for killing because it was committed by Saudi government employees
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (AFP/File photo)

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia told “60 Minutes” that he takes “full responsibility” for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi because it was committed by Saudi government employees.

Still, he denied ordering the 2 October murder, despite a CIA assessment that found that Bin Salman probably authorised it, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

“If there is any such information that charges me, I hope it is brought forward publicly,” he told interviewer Norah O’Donnell, according to a transcript of the episode to air on Sunday evening.

The comments by Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s day-to-day ruler, came just days before the anniversary of Khashoggi’s death and as Saudi leadership is struggling to turn the page on an episode that casts an unforgiving light on the crown prince’s human rights policies and Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the Trump administration, which has backed him from the beginning.

Bin Salman's comments were similar to others he’s made in recent days. "I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch," he recently told PBS's Martin Smith, according to a preview of a documentary, "The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia," set to air on 1 October.

While Khashoggi's death sparked a global uproar and tarnished the crown prince's reputation, the Trump administration's tense standoff with Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-foe, has more recently dominated US policy towards Riyadh, especially after the 14 September attacks on the heartland of the Saudi oil industry, Reuters said.

The crown prince warned in the “60 Minutes” broadcast that oil prices may spike to "unimaginably high numbers" if the world does not come together to deter Iran, but said he would prefer a political solution to a military one.

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"If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests," the crown prince said. "Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes."

He added: "The political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one."

The crown prince also said that US President Donald Trump should meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to craft a new deal on Tehran's nuclear programme and influence across the Middle East.

Still, on the subject of Khashoggi’s murder, the crown prince told the “60 Minutes” interviewer: "This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future."

On 13 October last year, MEE reported that Khashoggi was dragged from the consul general's office inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and brutally murdered by two men who cut up his body, citing sources close to the investigation.

In June, Trump said "nobody" had blamed the crown prince for the murder, following a meeting between the two at the G20 summit in Japan

The CIA and some western governments have said they believe he ordered it, but Saudi officials continue to insist he had no role. Members of the US Congress have called on Trump to accept the CIA's assessment, but he has not.

Asked how the killing could have happened without him knowing about it, the crown prince said: "Some think that I should know what 3 million people working for the Saudi government do daily? It's impossible that the 3 million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second-highest person in the Saudi government."

A UN report has called for Bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated in the case.