USA readies report on Khashoggi killing

President Joe Biden speaks in the White House in Washington Feb 22 2021. In a coming phone call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia Biden plans to warn the country that US is about to make public intelligence about who in their leadership was involved

The Biden administration is expected to release a long-awaited declassified report implicating Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as the Biden administration "recalibrates" the US-Saudi relationship.

In the days leading up to the conversation between Biden and the 85-year-old king, who has been in poor health, White House officials had described the conversation as part of a "recalibration" of the relationship, and as part of an effort to send a message that the United States regarded the son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as the wrong choice to lead the country. His secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, said the USA had "no direct evidence" linking the prince to the murder and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner maintained a close working relationship with him.

Reports saying that US President Joe Biden would call the Saudi king emerged on Wednesday, suggesting that the conversation was expected to take place on the same day, but no call between the leaders occurred at that time. And, despite the findings of USA intelligence officials, he accepted the crown prince's explanation that the killing of the journalist was a rogue operation in which he played no part.

Since taking over the presidency in January Biden has stressed he will "recalibrate" the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has claimed Khashoggi's death was the result of a "rogue" extradition operation gone awry and has denied the crown prince was involved.

It is not clear whether Biden would be opposed to having the crown prince in the room for his call with King Salman.

The president confirmed to reporters late Wednesday that he had read the report. His body was later dismembered.

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Mr. Biden also spoke about the recent release of several Saudi-American activists "and affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law". But amid intense global pressure, Saudi officials said two weeks after his disappearance that Khashoggi died in what they called a fight over an attempt to bring him back to Saudi Arabia. The remains were never found. Agnès Callamard, a United Nations human rights expert who investigated the killing, said the verdicts carried "no legal or moral legitimacy".

News of the US intelligence report and its findings were reported back in 2018 but the report was not made public.

DAWN and other human rights groups are calling on the Biden administration to impose further travel bans and financial sanctions on senior Saudi officials, including MBS.

The contents of the intelligence report will pile pressure on the Saudi leadership, which got little pushback from the Trump administration.

Almost three weeks ago, at the State Department, Biden ordered an end to arms sales and other support to the Saudis for a war in Yemen that he called a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe".

In September 2020, Saudi Arabia announced that eight people had been sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 20 years for Khashoggi's killing.

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