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Biden administration to make announcement about Saudi Arabia Monday as White House reviews ties

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2018.

Bandar Algaloud | Reuters

President Joe Biden said his administration would announce Monday how it intends to handle relations with Saudi Arabia, days after an intelligence report publicly linked the Saudi crown prince to the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden made the comments to press on Saturday when asked whether he would be punishing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the killing of journalist Khashoggi.

“There will be an announcement on Monday as to what we are going to be doing with Saudi Arabia generally,” Biden told reporters. The White House didn’t immediately return a request to provide more detail about the announcement.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, was a critic of the Saudi royal family. He entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, and never left.

Khashoggi was killed, his body was dismembered and his remains were never recovered.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report Friday that found the Saudi crown prince approved the operation that killed Khashoggi, citing bin Salman’s control of decision-making in Saudi Arabia.

The CIA-led assessment, which had previously been classified, also mentioned the involvement of a key advisor and members of the prince’s protective detail in the operation that killed Khashoggi.

The New York Times reported Friday that the Biden administration would not penalize the crown prince for Khashoggi’s killing. The White House decided such action would have too high a cost on U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and confronting Iran, according to the Times.

However, in a diplomatic rebuke to the crown prince, the White House made clear this week that Biden does not view the 35-year-old bin Salman as his counterpart and will instead conduct relations through his aging father, King Salman.

Bin Salman has been the public face of the kingdom since becoming crown prince in 2017.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday also imposed visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals whom are “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.”

When asked why the crown prince was not among those facing punishment, Blinken emphasized the importance U.S. interests and not rupturing relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government, in a statement Friday, said it “completely rejects” the report’s conclusions as unacceptable, claiming the assessment contained inaccurate information.

Riyadh condemned Khashoggi’s killing as an “abhorrent crime” that violates the kingdom’s laws and values, blaming his death on a rogue group.

— CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report

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