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Biden Says He Raised Khashoggi in Meeting With Saudi Prince

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(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said Friday that he told Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, that he holds him responsible for the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Biden said that he raised Khashoggi’s 2018 murder in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate at the beginning of a meeting with the crown prince in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it,” Biden told reporters after about two hours of meetings with the kingdom’s leaders, including the crown prince. “I indicated he probably was.”

“What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous,” Biden added.

Biden had demurred on questions about whether he would raise the Khashoggi killing directly while in Saudi Arabia, instead saying his position is clear and that human rights in the country are a concern.

Last year, Biden released an intelligence report indicating that MBS, as the crown prince is known, had ordered the operation at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that led to the murder of the Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic. But he also declined to add the prince to the list of people sanctioned for the crime, with the White House citing precedent regarding not sanctioning foreign leaders, as well as behind-the-scenes diplomatic conversations.

The Al Arabiya news channel, citing an unnamed Saudi official, said the crown prince told Biden that such an incident could happen anywhere. According to the official, he brought up the abuses of detainees by US forces at the Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War, and the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American reporter who was fatally shot in May while covering clashes between gunmen and Israeli troops in the West Bank.

After Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry released photos of Biden fist-bumping the crown prince upon his arrival to the royal palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted to Biden that “the blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands.”

“I’m sorry she feels that way,” Biden said. “I was straightforward back then, I was straightforward today.”

In a parallel briefing, Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, said his country’s officials had investigated Khashoggi’s murder and that those guilty for the slaying were held responsible.

(Updates with Al Arabiya report, in seventh paragraph.)

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