Saudi Arabia rejects US Senate's 'interference' in kingdom

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia issued an unusually strong rebuke of the U.S. Senate on Monday, rejecting a bipartisan resolution that put the blame for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi squarely on the Saudi crown prince and describing it as interference in the kingdom's affairs.

It's the latest sign of how the relationship between the royal court and Congress has deteriorated, more than two months after Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. The assassins have been linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

U.S. Senators last Thursday passed the measure that blamed the prince for Khashoggi's killing and called on Riyadh to "ensure appropriate accountability." Senators also passed a separate measure calling for the end of U.S. aid to the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

In a lengthy statement early Monday, Saudi Arabia said the Senate's resolution "contained blatant interferences" in the kingdom's internal affairs and undermines its regional and international role. The resolution was based on "unsubstantiated claims and allegations," the statement also said.

"The kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations, in any manner, that disrespect its leadership ... and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature," it said.

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President Donald Trump with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
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President Donald Trump with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 20: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) poses for a photo with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (L) of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center top, watches President Donald Trump, right, passing by as Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, looks on while leaders gather for the for the family photo of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center top, watches President Donald Trump, right, walk past as Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, stands by while leaders gather for the group photo at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Leaders from the Group of 20 industrialized nations are meeting in Buenos Aires for two days starting today.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, top right, watches President Donald Trump, right, walk past while leaders gather for a group photo at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Russia's President Vladimir Putin stands second from left. Brazil's President Michel Temer stands below the prince. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame stands top left. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 20: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (L) of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 20: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump (5th R) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (6th L) of Saudi Arabia hold an inter-delegation meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks while Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's crown prince, left, listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are developing an increasingly close partnership, encompassing everything from isolating Iran to bolstering business ties beyond energy into technology, defense and entertainment. Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg
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Such language is usually reserved for those who criticize the kingdom's human rights record, such as Sweden in 2015 after the public flogging of a blogger, and Canada this year over the arrests of women's rights activists.

Bu the statement was also tempered in saying the kingdom "reaffirms" its commitment to relations with the United States and describing the Senate as "an esteemed legislative body of an allied and friendly government."

President Donald Trump has been reluctant to condemn the crown prince, despite U.S. intelligence officials concluding that Prince Mohammed must have at least had knowledge of the plot. Trump instead has touted Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars and has thanked the Saudis for lower oil prices.

Saudi Arabia denies Prince Mohammed was involved in the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically of the crown prince. Under intense international pressure, the kingdom recently acknowledged that the plot was masterminded by top Saudi agents close to Prince Mohammed.

After shifting accounts about what happened to Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia said its investigations concluded that the crown prince's aides had plotted to bring Khashoggi by force back to Saudi Arabia and that the agents on the ground exceeded their authority and killed him.

The Saudi statement said the Senate's position will not affects the kingdom's "leading role in the region" and the stability of international energy markets, its counterterrorism cooperation and its stand with the U.S. in confronting Iran.

It "sends the wrong messages to all those who want to cause a rift in Saudi-U.S. relationship," the statement added.

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