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United States welcomes Saudi Arabia's Khashoggi investigation as 'step in the right direction'
21 November 2018, 12:40 | Tara Lloyd
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen visiting Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Mohammed Al Shaikh AFP Getty Images
"I'll be speaking also with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo". After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted in mid-October that Khashoggi had been murdered at the compound, but blamed it on a "rogue" operation. Khashoggi was a high-profile critic of Saudi policy and especially of the Kingdom's de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A member of the 15-man "hit squad", which allegedly killed the Saudi citizen, reportedly said in a phone call with a superior afterwards to "tell your boss" the murder mission had been completed.
Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, and Turkey has given the U.S. government a recording of the murder, but Trump said he would not listen to it "because it's a suffering tape, it's a awful tape".
Among the differences between the US and Saudi statements Thursday, Treasury's account appeared to indicate a planned killing, while the Saudi prosecutor said the decision to kill Khashoggi was made on site by a minor official, presumably one of the agents who had been sent to bring him back to Saudi Arabia. He says "it could well be that the crown prince had knowledge".
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The comments came as a host of countries responded positively to a briefing from the Kingdom's public prosecution that said it had identified 21 suspects in the killing of the Saudi journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.
This past week, USA intelligence officials briefed members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, and the Treasury Department announced economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the killing.
The United States has sanctioned 17 Saudis for the crime.
Asked whether he would go along with moves in the US Congress to cut off US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen or halt arms sales to the kingdom, Mr Trump equivocated.
The Treasury sanctions list included Saud al-Qahtani, a former senior aide to the crown prince; the Saudi consul general in Istanbul, Mohammed al-Otaibi, in whose diplomatic mission Khashoggi was killed; and Maher Mutreb, described as a Qahtani "subordinate", a security official who has frequently traveled with Mohammed and was photographed entering and leaving the consulate in Istanbul on the day of the killing. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
The sanctions are being imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, a US law that empowers the United States to sanction human rights abusers overseas.
"The claims in this purported assessment is false", a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a statement.
Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh for him to return home. After that, they communicated via text messages, she said.
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"You are welcome to check the phone records and cellphone content to corroborate this - in which case, you would have to request it from Turkish authorities", Baeshen said, adding that Saudi prosecutors have checked the phone records numerous times to no avail. "I ask the United States government to release any information regarding this claim (sic)".
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