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Biden to call Saudi king ahead of 'explosive' Khashoggi findings: Report

US intelligence report expected to support earlier CIA findings that Saudi crown prince behind murder of journalist
The call would be the first conversation between Biden, as US president, and King Salman, according to Axios (Reuters)

US President Joe Biden is set to call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Wednesday, ahead of the scheduled release of a US intelligence report on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a US news website.

Citing a source, Axios said late on Tuesday that the “imminent release of the explosive report” could entangle one of the king’s sons without mentioning any names.

The unclassified report from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is expected to support earlier findings by the CIA that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind Khashoggi’s murder.

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The call would be the first conversation between Biden, as US president, and King Salman, according to Axios.

Other issues are likely to be discussed but the Khashoggi case could dominate the conversation, the news website said.

Khashoggi, a Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist who was critical of Saudi government policies, was assassinated by a team of Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. 

US media outlets later reported that the CIA had concluded that the crown prince had ordered the killing.

Bin Salman has denied the accusations but has accepted responsibility as the kingdom’s de facto leader.

'Without delay'

Last month, US Congressman Adam Schiff, chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, welcomed the new US administration's pledge to release the declassified report on who killed Khashoggi, calling for the document to be made public "without delay".

In a letter to the newly confirmed director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, Schiff said ensuring accountability for the murder had been a top bipartisan priority in Congress.

Haines in January told lawmakers that her office would release a report naming the Saudi officials involved in the assassination, in compliance with legally binding congressional requests.

Late in 2019, Congress had inserted a provision in the Pentagon budget, ordering the ODNI to submit to Congress within 30 days an unclassified report outlining "the advance knowledge and role" of any Saudi official in "the directing, ordering, or tampering of evidence in the killing of Khashoggi".

However, the Trump administration refused to produce the report, arguing that releasing the information would compromise intelligence sources and methods.

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