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Saudi prince to meet Obama, Ban Ki-moon amid controversies

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman answers questions during a press conference in Riyadh, on April 25, 2016. (AFP photo)

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is traveling to the United States to meet with President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the wake of the kingdom’s recent diplomatic row with the UN and political differences with Washington.

Prince Mohammad, who also is the minister of defense, arrived in the US on Monday to hold a number of meetings with senior US officials.

The Saudi royal court said the prince and American officials will “discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries, and discuss issues of mutual interest and regional issues.”

The 31-year-old prince will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday morning, CIA chief John Brennan on Tuesday and Obama on Thursday.

The visit comes as controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks surged in May, when the US Senate passed a bill that allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Riyadh regime for the damage caused by the tragic event.

US President Barack Obama speaks with King Salman of Saudi Arabia during their meeting in the White House in Washington, DC on September 4, 2015. (AFP photo)

Riyadh has vehemently objected to the bill and said that it might sell up to $750 billion in US securities and other American assets if it became law.

Brennan, however, said on Saturday that the kingdom will be absolved of any responsibility for the 9/11 attacks based on 28 classified pages of a congressional report into the incident.

The New York Post claimed in a report last month that Saudi Arabia’s involvement was deliberately covered up at the highest levels of the American government.

The extent of the cover-up goes beyond hiding 28 pages of a congressional report on 9/11 which was released in 2002, the report noted.

Pointing to investigations by case agents interviewed at the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) in Washington and San Diego, along with police detectives who investigated the incident, the Post said, “Virtually every road led back to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gestures during a press conference on May 24, 2016 in Istanbul. (AFP photo)

Also on Monday, Prince Mohammad will meet Ban in the UN headquarters in New York.

Last week, Ban said Saudi Arabia and its allies put “undue pressure” on the UN to seek their removal from a blacklist for violating children’s rights in Yemen.

UN said in a report that Saudi Arabia was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 deaths of children in Yemen last year. The world body, however, quickly scratched it from the list after facing threats by the kingdom to stop funding UN programs.

The UN chief stressed that the threats raised “the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously.”

This has been “one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make,” Ban noted.

Diplomatic sources earlier said that Ban’s office was bombarded with calls from Persian Gulf Arab monarchies’ foreign ministers after the blacklisting was announced.

“Bullying, threats, pressure” was behind the UN move, a diplomatic source told Reuters on condition of anonymity, adding that it was “real blackmail.”

The sources said there was also a threat of Wahhabi clerics in Riyadh meeting to issue a fatwa against the UN.   

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