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Once feted, Saudi crown prince faces cold shoulder abroad

photo by AP photo

Tunisian women hold up saws and signs showing pictures of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a caption below reading in Arabic \"no welcome, Tunisians against the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Tunisia\"

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29th-Nov-2018       
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AFP, Riyadh:
Once feted on the world stage, Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince faces the cold shoulder abroad as he struggles to shrug off the lingering stigma of a critical journalist's murder.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been on an Arab tour before he attends the Group of 20 summit in Argentina on Friday, where he faces world leaders who have strongly condemned Jamal Khashoggi's killing last month in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
The country's de facto ruler has brushed aside the international pressure, attempting to use the overseas visits-followed by a whirlwind domestic tour-to shore up his tarnished reputation and reinforce relationships with allies.
"The question is who among global leaders will agree to stand with him publicly," said H.A. Hellyer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London.
"I suspect his appearances will be carefully staged to avoid embarrassment."
The prince faces the grim prospect of being treated as an "outcast" by some leaders at the two-day G-20 summit, said Bessma Momani, a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo.
"Group photos may be unavoidable, but liberal democratic leaders from countries such as Germany and Canada will not want to be seen shaking his hand," Momani said.
Former Spanish King Juan Carlos faced scathing domestic criticism over his handshake with the prince in Abu Dhabi, his first stop in a regional tour which also included close allies Bahrain and Egypt as well as Tunisia.
An image of the laughter-filled encounter at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last Sunday was dubbed by a conservative Spanish daily as "the photo of shame".
But the 33-year-old prince, widely known as MBS, used the regional tour as something of a victory lap after US President Donald Trump-who has praised Saudi Arabia as a "truly spectacular ally"-threw his weight behind him.
Trump's emphatic support came despite the Central Intelligence Agency's reported assessment that the prince-who controls all major levers of power in the Saudi government-was behind the killing.
"It should come as no surprise that allies like Trump, China's Xi (Jinping) and Russia's (Vladimir) Putin will have no qualms in signalling that they are absolutely fine to continue doing business with MBS," said Momani.
But some officials in the prince's entourage are bracing for a frosty reception at the G-20 summit.
Ahead of the prince's visit, Human Rights Watch urged Argentine prosecutors to consider bringing criminal charges against Prince Mohammed over alleged war crimes in a brutal Saudi-led war in Yemen and his possible complicity in Khashoggi's murder.

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