Crown Prince downplays Trump on Saudi military

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RIYADH, Oct 6, (Agencies): Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has brushed off comments from US President Donald Trump that Washington is “subsidising” the kingdom’s military, Bloomberg reported Friday. The crown prince insisted that the kingdom has always paid for armaments from the US. “Ever since the relationship started between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, we’ve bought everything with money,” he told Bloomberg in an interview.

Last week Trump asked at a rally “when you have wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia, like Japan, like South Korea, why are we subsidising their military?” “They’ll pay us. The problem is nobody ever asks,” he added. Prince Mohammed downplayed any apparent rift with the US leader and said relations between the two allies remains strong. “You have to accept that any friend will say good things and bad things. So you cannot have 100 percent friends saying good things about you,” he said.

“You will have some misunderstandings. So we put that in that category.” Eight people detained in Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption campaign remain in custody, the kingdom’s crown prince said, after scores were arrested in a purge launched last November. Prince Mohammed bin Salman said $35 billion, split between 40 percent cash and 60 percent assets, had been transferred to the government so far out of an expected $100 billion.

“We think it will complete in the next maybe two years,” he said in a Bloomberg interview published on Friday. Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said in January that the total number of subpoenaed individuals had reached 381 with 56 remaining in custody for possible trial. Settlements, like that reached by billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, had generated an estimated 400 billion riyal ($106.65 billion), the attorney general said at the time. Foreign and local investors have long complained about corruption, and confronting it is an important part of reforms unveiled by Prince Mohammed to transform the country and reduce the economy’s reliance on oil exports.

Yet some business leaders were unsettled by the swoop on top princes, businessmen and government officials because of the secrecy around the crackdown and their suspicions that it was at least partly politically motivated. Oil giant Saudi Arabia backed down at the last minute Saturday from obstructing the adoption of a major report by the UN’s climate science panel, sources told AFP. With the threat removed, the meeting of the 195-nation panel in Incheon, South Korea – deep into overtime – swiftly approved the report on how to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), and what a 1.5C world might look like.

The Saudis had objected to the inclusion of a passage emphasising the need for sharp reductions in the use of fossil fuels – Saudi Arabia’s main export. “Saudi Arabia withdrew its blockage of the passage when their objection was about to be formally recorded in a footnote,” said a participant in the meeting. “It was a game of chicken, and the Saudi’s blinked first.”

The 500-page report – based on 6,000 peer reviewed studies – under review at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a collaborative effort of the world’s top climate scientists. Under the IPCC’s consensus rules, all countries must sign off on the language of a 20-page Summary for Policymakers, designed to provide leaders with objective, science-based information.

After six hours of fruitless negotiations Saturday morning, the chair of the IPPC meeting adjourned the plenary around midday, warning: “The report hangs in the balance.”

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