Saudi king demotes FM in revamp seen as whitewash


Saudi King Salman issued a royal order on Thursday demanding a cabinet reshuffle, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Adel al-Jubeir, the soft-spoken foreign minister since 2015, was replaced by Ibrahim al-Assaf, who was formerly a finance minister.

King Salman also named Prince Abdullah bin Bandar, son of Prince Bandar Al Saud, who once served as Saudi ambassador to Washington, the new head of the National Guard and announced the hiring of several security intelligence officials.

The shake up comes as the kingdom grapples with global outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a scandal that has tipped Riyadh into one of its worst worldwide crises.

In November, the USA senators passed two resolutions blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi's killing and calling on Washington to stop any aid to the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

Turki al-Shabanah, a Saudi TV presenter, was named minister of media, with Hamad al-Sheikh appointed minister of education.

Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal has replaced Turki Al-Sheikh as president of the Sports Authority, while Turki Al-Sheikh has been appointed as Chairman of the Entertainment Authority.

The decree also appoints a woman - Eiman Al Mutairi - to the post of assistant to the Minister of Commerce and Investment.

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. Prince Sultan had been head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).

Mr Assaf was detained briefly in the Crown Prince's anti-corruption crackdown last year but was released within weeks of his detention at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel last year.

Turki al-Shabana, an executive at broadcaster Rotana, was appointed minister of information. "There is an effort to balance the fast pace of reform with bolstering government procedures and institutions".

Saudi Arabia on Thursday said it was creating government bodies to boost oversight of its intelligence operations, in the wake of Khashoggi's murder.

After the reshuffle, Prince Mohammed is set to maintain his political and security posts, including that of defence minster.

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has shone a spotlight on the ultra-conservative Islamic nation. "Even before the Khashoggi affair", Kabalan said in reference to the murder of Khashoggi on October 2. While President Donald Trump has sought to emphasize the importance of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia, prominent senators have come out against the crown prince, with one, Republican Lindsey Graham, describing him as "crazy" and "dangerous".