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Saudi officials 'wanted assassination of senior Iranian enemies' year before Khashoggi murder Open in fullscreen

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Saudi officials 'wanted assassination of senior Iranian enemies' year before Khashoggi murder

The Times said the discussions took place more than a year before Khashoggi's killing [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 November, 2018

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Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed a plan to assassinate senior Iranian officials, including notorious general Qassem Soleimani, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Saudi intelligence officials, close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, discussed a plan to assassinate senior Iranian officials, including notorious general Qassem Soleimani, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Sources familiar with the talks told the newspaper that in a March 2017 meeting in Riyadh aides to top intelligence official Ahmad al-Assiri asked businessmen about the feasibility of hiring private operatives to kill "Iranian enemies of Saudi Arabia".

"The Saudis asked the businessmen whether they also 'conducted kinetics' - lethal operations - saying they were interested in killing senior Iranian officials.

The businessmen hesitated, saying they would need to consult their lawyer," the report said.

"The lawyer flatly rejected the plan, and the businessmen told the Saudis they would not take part in any assassinations," it added.

The report said the meeting was arranged by Lebanese-American businessman George Nader - a convicted paedophile and close associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

After the rejection, Nader reportedly told the Saudis about a London-based company that might carry out the killings.

The report comes as Riyadh is facing unprecedented international pressure over the murder of Saudi insider-turned-critic Jamal Khashoggi in his country's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

The Times said the discussions, which took place more than a year before Khashoggi's killing indicate that "top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed's ascent".

Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri - a right-hand man of the crown prince - was reportedly present in a meeting where the businessmen pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy.

Assiri has since been fired over his alleged role in Khashoggi's murder.

After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted the 59-year-old had been murdered at the mission but claimed it took place after a "rogue" operation.

However, Ankara has accused the "highest levels" of the Saudi government of ordering the hit, while some officials have pointed the finger at the all-powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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