New York, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a television interview that he takes "full responsibility" for the grisly murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but denied allegations that he ordered it.
"This was a heinous crime," Prince Mohammed, 34, told "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday. "But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government."
Asked if he ordered the murder of Khashoggi, who had criticized him in columns for The Washington Post, Prince Mohammed replied: "Absolutely not."
The slaying was "a mistake," he said.
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018, to collect a document that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. Agents of the Saudi government killed Khashoggi inside the consulate and apparently dismembered his body, which has never been found. Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people in the slaying and put them on trial, which has been held in secret. As of yet, no one has been convicted.
A U.N. report asserted that Saudi Arabia bore responsibility for the killing and said Prince Mohammed's possible role in it should be investigated. In Washington, Congress has said it believes Prince Mohammed is "responsible for the murder." Saudi Arabia has long insisted the crown prince had no involvement in an operation that included agents who reported directly to him.
"Some think that I should know what 3 million people working for the Saudi government do daily," the powerful heir told "60 Minutes." ''It's impossible that the 3 million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second-highest person in the Saudi government."
In an interview Thursday in New York, Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, told The Associated Press that responsibility for Khashoggi's slaying "was not limited to the perpetrators" and said she wanted Prince Mohammed to tell her: "Why was Jamal killed? Where is his body? What was the motive for this murder?"
Prince Mohammed also addressed the Sept. 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities. While Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia has said it was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran."
"There is no strategic goal," Prince Mohammed said of the attack. "Only a fool would attack 5% of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did."
He urged "strong and firm action to deter Iran."
Tehran, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — A British-flagged oil tanker held by Iran since July was released Friday and was heading toward the United Arab Emirates, the company that owns the vessel said.
Iran's marine and port authority said the Stena Impero left Iran Friday morning. Hours earlier, the tanker had begun transmitting its location for the first time in weeks just outside the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, where it had been held since its July 19 seizure.
The head of the Swedish shipping firm Stena Bulk that owns the tanker said it "has been a long wait" for the vessel and its crew to be released.
Company president and CEO Erik Hanell said the ship's seizure "has meant an enormous pressure for us all, especially for the crew." The ship was headed to Dubai, where the crew would disembark and undergo medical checks.
Hannel said the vessel appeared to be in good condition and "hopefully it will be on duty within a week or so," speaking by telephone with Swedish television.
The ship tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Stena Impero heading south from Iran at a speed of just over 14 mph (22 kph).
Iran seized the tanker on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes. The raid saw commandos rappel down onto the vessel via helicopter carrying assault rifles, dramatic images later replayed on state television.
The seizure came after British marines helped take control of an Iranian supertanker on July 4. Authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, seized the ship carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion it was breaking European Union sanctions by taking the oil to Syria. Gibraltar later released the tanker, then called the Grace 1, after it said Iran promised the ship wouldn't go to Syria.
That ship, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, later sat off the Syrian coast, angering Britain. Iran hasn't said who purchased its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil.
On Monday, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei had told journalists the Stena Impero could leave. But the ship remained outside Bandar Abbas until Friday.
Earlier this month, Iran released seven crew members of the Stena Impero. Sixteen stayed on board.
Britain has responded to Iran's release of the tanker Friday by accusing Tehran of trying to disrupt freedom of navigation.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the ship "was unlawfully seized by Iran."
He said the seizure was "part of a pattern of attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation. We are working with our international partners to protect shipping and uphold the international rule of law."
The ship seizures come after months of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, sparked by President Donald Trump's decision over a year ago to unilaterally pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran. The U.S. has imposed sanctions that have kept Iran from selling its oil abroad and have crippled its economy. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday told reporters upon his return home from the U.N. General Assembly that U.S. sanctions on Iran are "more unstable than ever," without elaborating. Many observers saw the trip as an opportunity for a possible meeting between Rouhani and Trump.
But Rouhani said Iran cannot accept negotiations before the U.S. sanctions are lifted first. "Otherwise, Iran does not fear negotiation," he said.
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted Friday that "Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!"
There have been a series of attacks across the Middle East that the U.S. blames on Iran. They reached their height on Sept. 14, with a missile and drone attack on the world's largest oil processor in Saudi Arabia and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran."
Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an "all-out war."
Jerusalem, Sep 25 (AP/UNB) — Israeli police say they have arrested the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs for conducting political activity in east Jerusalem.
Fadi al-Hadami is charged with allegedly breaking a law prohibiting political activity in Jerusalem by the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfled said al-Hadami was detained early Wednesday. The PA-appointed governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheit, is also being sought for the same offense.
Palestinian official Adnan Husseini countered that the arrest was meant to stop "social and cultural activities."
Al-Hadami was last arrested on similar grounds in June.
The PA appoints officials for east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967 and later annexed. But aside from some day-to-day affairs, their role is mostly symbolic, as Israel maintains full control over the city.
Copenhagen, Sep 24 (AP/UNB) — The head of the Swedish shipping firm that owns the British-flagged oil tanker held by Iran since July says Stena Impero is still in Iranian waters.
Erik Hanell, CEO of Stena Bulk, told The AP Tuesday that "we know nothing as to why she is still there."
On Monday, an Iranian government spokesman said legal proceedings had concluded and the vessel, which has been kept in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas since July 19, was free to move.
Iran seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world's oil passes.
The seizure came after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian tanker carrying $130 million in crude oil on suspicion of it breaking European Union sanctions on Syria.
Tehran, Sep 21 (AP/UNB) — The chief of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard says his forces are ready for combat and "any scenario" as the country's nuclear deal with world powers collapses and tensions with the U.S. soar.
Gen. Hossein Salami said Saturday that his forces have carried out "war exercise and are ready for any scenario."
Salami was speaking during a ceremony showing pieces of the American drone shot down by the Guard in June.
He added: "If anyone crosses our borders, we will hit them."
His comments came as the U.S. alleges Iran was behind a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia. Iran denies the charge and says any retaliatory strike could result in "all-out war."