Saudi Crown Prince Bends, Says War With Iran No Option

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman - File Pic

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's crown prince said in an interview aired on Sunday that war with Iran would devastate the global economy and he prefers a non-military solution to tensions with his regional rival.

"If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests," Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ─ known as MBS for short ─ told the CBS program "60 Minutes".

"Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven't seen in our lifetimes," the crown prince said.

MBS said a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran would be catastrophic for the world economy.

"The region represents about 30 per cent of the world's energy supplies, about 20 per cent of global trade passages, about four per cent of the world GDP. Imagine all of these three things stop," he said.

"This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries."

MBS said a September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities, which his country and the US blamed on Iran, had been senseless.

"There is no strategic goal. Only a fool would attack five per cent of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did," said the crown prince.

He was asked point-blank if he ordered the killing and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October last year.

"Absolutely not. 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.

"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."

Body never found

MBS, the kingdom's de facto ruler, has come under huge international pressure after the US-based writer was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi's body was never found.

The crown prince has said the killing was carried out without his knowledge.

Riyadh has repeatedly denied that the crown prince was behind the murder of Khashoggi — a royal family insider turned critic and a US resident — who was killed in what Saudi authorities have described as a rogue operation.

A report by a UN human rights expert, who conducted an independent probe, said there was "credible evidence" linking the crown prince to the murder and an attempted cover up.

The CIA has also reportedly said the killing was likely ordered by MBS.

But Saudi prosecutors have absolved the crown prince and said around two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.

Erdogan says Khashoggi's killers enjoy 'impunity'

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan insisted on Monday that Turkey will keep pushing for the truth behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, saying some of his killers appeared to be evading justice.

A year after Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents sent from Riyadh, Erdogan said Turkey still wanted to know where his body was and who had authorised the operation — suggesting it was carried by agents of a "shadow state" in Saudi Arabia.

In a Washington Post op-ed, published on Monday, Erdogan described the journalist's killing by a Saudi hit squad as "arguably the most influential and controversial incident of the 21st Century". His comments come ahead of the first anniversary of Khashoggi's October 2 slaying at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Erdogan said Turkey would keep asking: "Where are Khashoggi's remains? Who signed the Saudi journalist's death warrant? Who dispatched the 15 killers aboard two planes to Istanbul?"

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with United States broadcaster CBS he had "absolutely not" ordered Khashoggi's killing, although he bore responsibility as leader of his country.

Eleven Saudi suspects have been put on trial in secretive proceedings but only a few hearings have been held. A United Nations report has called for Prince Mohammed and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated. The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe the prince ordered the operation, an assertion Saudi officials have repeatedly denied.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, had become a prominent critic of the crown prince's policies.

He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding. His body was dismembered and removed from the building, according to Turkish officials, and his remains have not been found.

Erdogan, in his op-ed for the Post, said the fact that the killers travelled on diplomatic passports and "turned a diplomatic building into a crime scene" set a dangerous precedent.

"Perhaps more dangerous is the impunity that some of the killers seem to enjoy back in the kingdom," he wrote, adding that there was a near-complete lack of transparency on the court proceedings.

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