PARIS - Saudi Arabia has threatened military action against Qatar if it goes ahead and acquires Russia’s top of the range S-400 air defence missile system, Le Monde daily reported.

Citing information it had obtained, Le Monde said Friday that Riyadh had written to French President Emmanuel Macron asking him to intervene to prevent the deal going ahead and to help preserve regional stability. There was no immediate official reaction from the president’s office or the French foreign ministry to the report.

Saudi Arabia, backed by other regional powers including Bahrain and the Unite Arab Emirates, broke off relations with Qatar in June last year, accusing the Gulf state of supporting radical Islamist groups and of being too close to Iran - Riyadh’s arch rival in the region. They subsequently imposed economic sanctions on Qatar which has consistently rejected the charges against it.

In an effort to ease its isolation, Qatar has sought new friends, including Russia.

In January, it announced that talks with Moscow on supplying the sophisticated S-400 system were at an “advanced stage”.

Le Monde said that in the letter sent to the French president, Saudi King Salman had expressed his “deep concern” with the discussions between Doha and Moscow and warned about the risk of escalation.

Saudi Arabia “would be ready to take all necessary measures to eliminate this defence system, including military action,” the newspaper wrote.

KSA RESHUFFLES CABINET

Saudi Arabia announced another cabinet reshuffle Saturday with a heavy focus on culture and religion, as the kingdom undergoes a major image overhaul. This is the second significant government change since the appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the king, as heir to the region’s most powerful throne. The crown prince serves as deputy prime minister under his father, King Salman.

State news agency SPA announced King Salman had replaced the country’s labour and Islamic affairs ministers - and named a prince linked to the purchase of a Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus as culture minister.

Saudi Arabia for decades has combined its culture and information ministries.

The decree announced the culture ministry was now a separate entity under Prince Badr bin Abdullah, the man named by the New York Times as the mystery buyer of Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” for a record-breaking $450 million at auction last year. The Wall Street Journal later reported that he was acting on behalf of Prince Mohammed. The Louvre Abu Dhabi has said the religious painting was “acquired” by the Emirati authorities and would be put on display there.

Non-Muslim worship is banned in Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom has hosted high-ranking Christian clerics in recent months, notably from Lebanon and France.

In April, the Vatican signed a memorandum for a meeting with Saudi officials every three years.

Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi, an engineer and private sector businessman, was on Saturday named labour and social development minister. Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh was named the new Islamic affairs minister.

Prince Mohammed, who has steadily consolidated his grip on power since sidelining his cousin as crown prince last June, has spearheaded a string of policy changes in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia, including reinstating cinemas and allowing women to drive.

Often referred to by his initials, MBS, the prince pledged a “moderate, open” Saudi Arabia in a televised keynote speech in October, telling international investors his country wanted “to live a normal life.”

Saudi Arabia has been dominated by a harsh strain of conservative Islam since the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca by around 400 extremists, a reaction against what they saw as Saudi society’s plunge into immorality with entertainment, including cinema and television, and women taking jobs.

A bloody military assault dislodged them two weeks later, leaving scores dead on both sides. Their influence, however, has remained.

Over the past year, Prince Mohammed has steered a modernisation campaign that aims to sell the country to foreign audiences and investors, with hundreds of billions of dollars pledged to projects that will boost tourism and entertainment.

On Friday, the crown prince earned a warning from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the jihadist group’s Yemen-based branch, over his “sinful projects”, which AQAP said included a WWE wrestling event hosted by the kingdom in April.