Biden accuses Saudi officials of lying about his confrontation with MBS over Khashoggi

President Joe Biden has accused Saudi officials of lying after claiming they “didn’t hear” him discuss the murder of US citizen and journalist Jamal Khashoggi during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told aFoxNews journalist on Saturday that he was unaware of Mr Biden’s confrontation with the Crown Prince, known as MBS, over his role in the execution of Khashoggi in 2018.

“I didn’t hear that particular phrase,” the Saudi minister said.

When Mr. Biden landed at the White House on Saturday evening, he was asked if the official was telling the truth.

“The Saudi foreign minister says he didn’t hear you accuse the crown prince of Khashoggi’s murder. Is he telling the truth? a White House reporter asked.

Mr. Biden firmly replied, “No.”

Saudi officials have given conflicting accounts of the closed-door meeting between Mr Biden and MBS in Saudi Arabia on Friday.

Immediately after the contentious meeting, Mr Biden told reporters he had confronted the Crown Prince about his role in the “outrageous” killing of Khashoggi and that it was the first issue he had raised during his their conversation.

“As for Khashoggi’s murder, I raised it at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought about it then and what I think about it now,” he said.

“I have made my views very clear…that an American president be silent on a human rights issue is inconsistent with who we are and who I am.”

At first, Saudi officials appeared to confirm the comments.

Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told reporters on Friday that Mr Biden spoke about the journalist’s murder and that MBS responded with comments about America’s own controversies.

The Crown Prince discussed the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and incidents in which US soldiers mistreated prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib detention center, telling Mr Biden that both incidents had a bad image of the United States, said the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

However, on Saturday, Mr. al-Jubeir appeared to contradict that account, disputing that Mr. Khashoggi had even been discussed at all.

Mr. Khashoggi – a Washington Post journalist and outspoken critic of the Saudi government – was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of MBS-linked intelligence operatives on October 2, 2018. His body was brutally dismembered with a bone saw.

President Biden takes issue with Saudi officials’ comments as he lands at the White House on Saturday night

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President Biden takes issue with Saudi officials’ comments as he lands at the White House on Saturday night

(Getty Images)

The Saudi government initially denied any involvement in the murder before going on to claim that the officers accidentally killed the US citizen while trying to extradite him to Saudi Arabia.

US intelligence agencies later concluded that MBS ordered the hit.

The Biden administration has been forced to defend the president’s meeting with MBS, especially since during his 2020 White House campaign he vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah”.

The chairman sparked further backlash when he greeted MBS with a fist bump at the start of Friday’s meeting.

Mr Biden hit back at reporters when asked if he regretted the seemingly friendly salute as he landed on the White House South Lawn late Saturday.

“Why don’t you talk about something that matters?” I am happy to answer a question that matters,” Biden replied.

Mr bin Farhan described the punchline between the two leaders as “a victory” for the US president.

The Saudi Foreign Minister said CNN Saturday that it was “completely normal” for the two leaders to have exchanged “jokes”, saying “I don’t know why we’re hanging on to a fist bump”.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressing US President Joe Biden at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit on Saturday

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressing US President Joe Biden at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit on Saturday

(Saudi Royal Palace/AFP via Getty)

“I see the picture as a victory for President Biden. He took away a meeting with a key leader in the region,” he said.

“Out of it, I think, is a reinvigoration of the strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States.”

Mr. Biden met with several Middle Eastern leaders during his four-day trip to the region, which was partly aimed at striking deals with oil-rich countries and, ultimately, easing the pain of Americans caused by the current exorbitant gas prices.

But the trip was rocked by further controversy when it emerged US lawyer Asim Ghafoor, who previously defended Mr Khashoggi, was arrested as he walked through Dubai airport on Thursday.

UAE state media said on Saturday he was sentenced to three years in prison in the United Arab Emirates for tax evasion and money laundering.

Human rights group DAWN said Mr Ghafoor was unaware of any charges or convictions in absentia before his sudden arrest.

The US State Department said it was aware of his detention.

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