Saudi king to make week-long domestic tour amid Khashoggi crisis

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, attends a banquet hosted by Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool/File Photo

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will embark on a week-long domestic tour on Tuesday, a senior government official told Reuters, as the absolute monarchy faces its worst political crisis in a generation over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It is the first such trip for the 82-year-old king since he acceded to the throne of the world’s top oil exporter in 2015, according to local media, which reported expected stops in the provinces of Qassim and Hail, both northwest of Riyadh.

Online news site Sabq said the king would launch health, education and infrastructure projects, but few other details were immediately available.

The tour comes as Saudi Arabia faces an international outcry over Khashoggi’s murder a month ago in its consulate in Istanbul. Riyadh initially denied any role in his disappearance, but under pressure from Turkish authorities it eventually identified 18 suspects in the case.

It was not immediately clear if the king’s powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, would be participating in the tour.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to kill Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government but that he did not believe King Salman was behind it.

Riyadh has blamed Khashoggi’s death on a “rogue operation”, and said the crown prince had no knowledge of the killing.

King Salman has taken a more hands-on role in Saudi policy after delegating vast powers to Prince Mohammed, who has embarked on sweeping social and economic reforms but has marginalized some senior royals and overseen a crackdown on dissent.

Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Kevin Liffey