Saudi king issues pardons, unveils projects on domestic tour

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. (File)
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) Saudi Arabia's king has begun a domestic tour with a first stop in the conservative heartland of Qassim province, where he pardoned prisoners serving time on financial charges and announced 16 billion riyals, or about $4.27 billion, in new projects.

This is King Salman's first such tour since he ascended to the throne in 2015 and comes as the kingdom faces international pressure following the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

The state-run news agency reported on Wednesday that the government would pay debts of up to 1 million riyals, or $267,000, on behalf of each of the pardoned prisoners.

The monarch also announced billions of dollars for some 600 projects to improve health facilities, roads, schools and other infrastructure in Qassim.