By Arshad Mohammed
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden should not visit Saudi Arabia or meet its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. intelligence, a leading Democratic lawmaker said on Sunday.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of the prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered in 2018 by operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Asked if Biden, who on Friday acknowledged the possibility he may visit Saudi Arabia soon, should go to the oil exporter and meet the crown prince, its de facto ruler, Representative Adam Schiff said: “In my view, no.
“I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t shake his hand. This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way,” Schiff, who chairs the House of Representatives intelligence committee, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement by the crown prince in the killing and rejected a February 2021 U.S. intelligence report that assessed that he “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill” Khashoggi.
“Until Saudi Arabia makes a radical change in terms of (its) human rights, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him,” Schiff said of the crown prince, often called MBS.
He also rejected arguments that Biden should visit Saudi Arabia to try to get it to increase oil production and lower U.S. gasoline prices, a problem for Biden and his fellow Democrats ahead of the November midterm congressional elections.
While saying he understood Saudi influence over oil prices, Schiff said he viewed that as “a compelling argument” for the United States to wean itself off oil “so we don’t have despots and murderers calling the shots.”
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Saint Paul, Minnesota; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)