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U.S. Senate Foreign Relations chairman offers bill on Saudi rights

Kitco News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch, has introduced legislation seeking to push back on Saudi Arabia over human rights and criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The bill, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, is the latest effort in the U.S. Congress to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for rights abuses, including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

However, it does not address weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Risch had said he wanted to introduce legislation that President Donald Trump would sign.

Although Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a majority of seats in the Senate, the chamber last month defied him by voting to block billions of dollars in military sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries.

A handful of Republicans joined Democrats to pass resolutions to block the sales, rejecting Trump’s decision to sidestep Congress’ review of such deals by declaring an emergency over Iran.

Trump has promised to veto all 22 of the resolutions of disapproval. The measures did not get enough votes in the Senate to override his veto.

Risch’s bill calls for a “comprehensive review of” and report on Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia addressing issues including the Saudi diplomatic presence in the United States.

It also calls upon Trump to deny or revoke visas of any Saudi citizens tied to rights abuses, although it allows waivers if they are in the U.S. national interest.

The House of Representatives is due to vote on some of the resolutions of disapproval of the weapons sales next week. They are expected to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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