Saudi king orders govt reshuffle after Khashoggi fallout

Saudi king orders govt reshuffle after Khashoggi fallout

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman has consolidated power for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ordering a reshuffle of the Cabinet, almost three months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which caused global uproar and brought Saudi leadership under close scrutiny.

"But all in all, we are not going through a crisis, we are going through a transformation", he added, referring to social and economic reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Another appointee, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar, a young royal seen as close to the crown prince, was named head of the Saudi National Guard, a powerful security agency whose role has been to protect the royal family. The Cabinet shakeup is seen as a boon for the crown prince by placing loyalists in key positions.

In other changes, Turki al-Shabanah was appointed as the new information minister, replacing Awwad al-Awwad - who was named as an advisor to the royal court. The king also ordered the creation of a national space agency to be led by one of his other sons, Prince Sultan bin Salman, a former astronaut.

Al-Assaf was among dozens of detainees in the huge operation against corruption carried out by Saudi authorities in November 2017 in which princes, politicians and powerful business leaders were detained for weeks in a luxurious hotel in Riyadh before reaching financial agreements with the government, Efe reported.

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The reshuffle also saw the removal of Turki al-Sheikh from his position as head of the General Authority for Sports and his appointment as head of the General Authority for Entertainment. Assaf was held in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel past year along with hundreds of elite princes and businessmen, in what the government called an anti-corruption crackdown. "You can not delink Khashoggi from any developments, though government reshuffles are customary every four years", said Mohammed Alyahya, a senior fellow at the Gulf Research Center. "There is an effort to balance the fast pace of reform with bolstering government procedures and institutions", he said.

The Saudi government has publicly reacted to the criticism with defiance - for example, condemning a recent US Senate resolution that blamed the crown prince for Khashoggi's killing.

The king also promoted several young royals, many of whom have worked with the 33-year-old heir to the throne. He is set to maintain his political and security posts after Thursday's reshuffle, including that of defence minister.

Al-Assaf is well known to global investors, having led several Saudi delegations to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Saudi government has repeatedly denied the crown prince's involvement in Khashoggi's killing.

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