A declassified version of a United States' intelligence report expected to be released today has found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to four US officials.
The officials said the report, for which the CIA was the main contributor, assessed that the crown prince approved and likely ordered the murder of Mr Khashoggi, whose column in The Washington Post had criticised the crown prince's policies.
President Joe Biden told reporters that he had read the report and expected to speak soon by phone with Saudi Arabian King Salman, father of the crown prince, the country's 35-year-old de facto ruler.
The report's release is part of Mr Biden's policy to realign ties with Riyadh after years of giving the Arab ally and major oil producer a pass on its human rights record and its intervention in Yemen's civil war.
President Biden is working to restore the relationship with Saudi Arabia to traditional lines after four years of warmer ties under former US president Donald Trump.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the president would only communicate with the Saudi king and said the declassified Khashoggi report was being readied for release soon.
While Mr Biden restricts his contacts to the king, others in the Washington administration are talking to Saudi officials at various levels.
"We have been in touch with Saudi officials at numerous levels in the early weeks of this administration," said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Mr Khashoggi, who was 59, was lured to the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on 2 October 2018, and killed by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince. They dismembered his body and his remains have never been found.
Riyadh eventually admitted that the journalist was killed in an extradition operation gone wrong, but it denied any involvement by the crown prince.
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Five men given the death penalty for the murder had their sentences commuted to 20 years in jail after being forgiven by Mr Khashoggi's family.
In 2019, a human rights investigator for the United Nations, Agnes Callamard, accused Saudi Arabia of a "deliberate, premeditated execution" of Mr Khashoggi and called for further investigation.
"There is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince demanding further investigation," Ms Callamard said after the six-month inquiry.
A classified version of the report was shared with members of the US Congress in late 2018.
But the Trump administration rejected demands by lawmakers and human rights groups to release a declassified version, seeking to preserve cooperation amid rising tensions with Saudi Arabia's regional rival, Iran, and promote US arms sales to the kingdom.
President Biden's new director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, committed at her confirmation hearing to complying with a provision in a 2019 defence bill that required the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release within 30 days a declassified report on Mr Khashoggi's murder.
Mr Biden pledged during the 2020 presidential campaign to reassess US-Saudi ties in part over the murder.
Since taking office, he has ended sales of offensive arms that Riyadh could use in Yemen and appointed a special envoy to boost diplomatic efforts to end that country’s gruelling civil war.