MbS jokes Lebanon PM 'not kidnapped' amid Khashoggi controversy
Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Wednesday joked about allegations that Lebanon's premier-designate Saad Hariri was detained in the kingdom last year, saying he hoped his current visit does not spark "abduction" rumours.
Hariri "will be staying in the kingdom for two more days, so I hope there are no rumours of his abduction," Prince Mohammed bin Salman said while addressing the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh.
The prince burst out laughing and shook hands with a smiling Hariri, who sat next to him on stage, as the audience also erupted in laughter.
Saudi Arabia has long been a key ally of Hariri, while Riyadh's regional foe Iran backs Lebanese Shia movement Hizballah.
But in November last year, Hariri announced he was stepping down in a televised address from the Saudi capital, causing observers to speculate he was being held against his will.
After French mediation, he rescinded his resignation the following month, and Saudi Arabia has denied intimidating Hariri into quitting his post.
Hariri was named premier for a third term in May after Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in nine years, but has since struggled to form a cabinet.
Hariri, a dual Saudi citizen, has thrown his support behind Prince Mohammed as he faces global outrage over the murder of Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic and Washington Post writer who was in self-imposed exile in the US, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October as he organised the paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.
After more than two weeks of vehemently denying Khashoggi was dead and insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, the Saudi government on Saturday said he was killed in a "fist fight" inside the building and that the murder was not state-sanctioned.
Speaking publicly for the first time since Khashoggi's death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, MbS insisted the kingdom was cooperating with Turkish authorities and "justice will prevail".
he kingdom is under mounting international pressure over the killing amid US accusations of a monumental cover-up by the kingdom.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested MbS could be behind the murder. "The prince is running things over there," the American leader said, in his toughest remarks yet on the case.
MbS also attempted to downplay any diplomatic crisis with Turkey, which is leading the investigation into Khashoggi's death.
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