Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Saudi crown prince said stripped of some power

KHASHOGGI MURDER:A series of no-shows by Prince Mohammad bin Salman at high-profile meetings has sparked speculation of a widening rift with the king

The Guardian, WASHINGTON AND LONDON

Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammad bin Salman poses for pictures during his visit to the Great Wall of China in Beijing on Feb. 21.

Photo: Reuters

The heir to the Saudi Arabian throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in the nation over the past fortnight and has allegedly been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, sources said.

The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman.

The king is said to have asked Prince Mohammad to be at this Cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend.

While the move has not been declared publicly, the Guardian has been told that one of the king’s trusted advisers, Musaed al-Aiban, who was educated at Harvard and recently named national security adviser, would informally oversee investment decisions on the king’s behalf.

The Saudi embassy in Washington has declined multiple requests for comment since the Guardian approached it on Tuesday last week.

The relationship between the king and his son has been under scrutiny since the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was alleged to have been ordered by Prince Mohammad and provoked international condemnation of the crown prince.

This has been denied by the Riyadh government.

Experts on the Middle East are divided over whether the murder and concern over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen have led to tension at the heart of the notoriously secretive royal court.

However, while most observers expect the crown prince to accede to the thrown, there are some signs that the king is seeking to rein in his controversial son at a time when the kingdom is under the spotlight.

The Guardian has been told that Prince Mohammad did not attend two of the most recent weekly Cabinet meetings, which are headed by the king.

The crown prince has also not attended other high-profile talks with visiting dignitaries, including one last week with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.

The crown prince was also not present at a meeting with senior economic and finance officials last week, a meeting between the king and the grand mufti, a meeting with the head of the WHO, and meetings with the Lebanese prime minister and Indian and Chinese ambassadors..

A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian government in Washington declined to comment on the absences or provide information on the crown prince’s whereabouts.

The spokesman also did not comment on the alleged decision to remove from Prince Mohammad some of his financial responsibilities, or the decision to informally appoint al-Aiban to oversee financial matters.

It is unclear from recent official press statements about the king and the prince’s activities whether Prince Mohammad has been absent from all of the high-profile events, but the prince has not appeared in any recent photographs or press statements, apart from a report that he spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the phone last week.

A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry confirmed that Prince Mohammad had not met Lavrov last week. She also said no such meeting had been planned in advance.

Though Prince Mohammad has missed meetings before, a source familiar with the workings of the royal court said there was genuine surprise at some of the “no-shows” in the past fortnight.

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