The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Saudi Arabia gets Lebanese backing over Khashoggi case

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BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Sunni authority was joined by other high-level officials Monday in hitting back at criticisms of Saudi Arabia over the disappeara­nce of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The campaign of political blackmail against the kingdom … defies the feelings of more than 1 billion Muslims,” Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian said, according to the state-run National News Agency.

“The role of the kingdom in spreading the culture of moderation, fighting extremism and … thwarting operations targeting Western countries is appreciate­d by the civilized world,” Derian claimed.

The Sunni religious leader said the Arab world will stand with Saudi Arabia and look out for other “campaigns of political blackmail.”

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist critical of Riyadh’s policies, disappeare­d on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Upon his disappeara­nce, several observers and media outlets, including the U.K.-based Guardian and the U.S.-based Post, published posts arguing Saudi Arabia should be held accountabl­e for the journalist’s disappeara­nce. Turkey expressed the belief that he was murdered and that his body was removed.

Saudi Arabia has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Top-level Lebanese officials responded to the criticisms the day after Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri came out to express solidarity with the kingdom.

Hariri warned “campaigns targeting the kingdom” are a threat to the region’s stability and “drag the region into more negativity.”

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said “accusation­s not supported with evidence in the Khashoggi case” should be avoided and that the “focus [should be] on facts, not rumors and media games.”

Former premier Najib Mikati made comments to the same effect.

The United Arab Emirates’ Embassy in Lebanon also responded to such criticisms, expressing its support for the kingdom in a statement issued after Saudi Ambassador Walid al-Bukhari met his UAE counterpar­t, Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

“The UAE [stands firm] alongside its brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, against all attempts to [spread] strife and discord to achieve well-known goals and interests,” the statement said. Shamsi said the KSA’s “historical status as a guarantor of security and stability” in the region could not be doubted.

Monday evening, a Twitter hashtag in solidarity with the kingdom, “#Lebnan_maa_almamlakeh_waki yadatuha” (“Lebanon is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership”), trended in Lebanon.

Other countries have expressed concern over the disappeara­nce and called for Riyadh to cooperate in an investigat­ion. A joint Saudi-Turkish team began a search of the Saudi consulate Monday. –

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