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Saudi prince rejects allegations of royal family rift after London comments

Ahmed bin Abdulaziz told protesters in London that King Salman and crown prince are responsible for Yemen war, not entire royal family
Prince Ahmad says his comments about King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were misinterpreted (AFP)

Saudi King Salman's brother has played down controversial remarks he made to anti-Saudi protesters in London that sparked furious speculation about possible discord within the royal family.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud apparently asked a crowd in London to stop chanting slogans against the Saudi royal family over the kingdom's involvement in the three-year conflict in Yemen.

"What does the family have to do with it? Certain individuals are responsible... the king and the crown prince," he said, according to a widely circulated online video of the incident in London.

The comment was seen as rare criticism from a royal family member of the kingdom's leadership as well as its role in the Yemen conflict, dubbed by the UN as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

But in a statement, the prince dismissed that interpretation as "inaccurate".

"I have made it clear that the king and the crown prince are responsible for the state and its decisions," the prince said in the statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency late Tuesday.

"This is true for the security and stability of the country and the people. Therefore, it is not possible to interpret what I said in any other way."

In a bid to suggest unity within the royal family, multiple pro-Saudi social media accounts posted images of Prince Ahmed kissing the hand of King Salman.

The internal affairs of the royal family are shrouded in secrecy and a public airing of disagreements is extremely rare.

The remarks come as powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tightens his grip on power by cracking down on dissent with the imprisonment of prominent clerics, women and human rights activists.

Bin Salman earlier detained several members of the royal family, including global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, over allegations of corruption. They have mostly been released after agreeing to financial settlements.

Dissident Saudi prince urges uncles to seize power
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The crown prince, architect of the kingdom's 2015 intervention in Yemen, has drawn criticism over the conflict that has left at least 10,000 people dead and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

In an interview with Middle East Eye, dissident Prince Khaled bin Farhan urged Prince Ahmed and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz to seize power from the powerful crown prince to protect the kingdom from his "irrational, erratic and stupid" rule.

Prince Khaled, who was given political asylum in Germany in 2013, said that if Ahmed and Muqrin were to unite ranks, then "99 percent of the members of the royal family, the security services and the army would stand behind them".

"There is so much anger within the royal family," Prince Khaled told MEE back in July. "I took this information and appeal to my uncles Ahmed and Muqrin, who are the sons of Abdulaziz and are highly educated, well versed and able to change things for the better. I can say that we are all behind them and support them." 

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