10 December 2018

Trump reluctant to abandon Riyadh over missing journalist, wants evidence: Page 2 of 2

IMPORTANT TIES

Pompeo meanwhile said Riyadh should be given a few more days to complete its own probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance. He met Turkey’s president and foreign minister, a day after Trump gave Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt.

“They’re going to do an investigation, and when the investigation comes out we’ll evaluate it,” Pompeo told reporters traveling with him.

A State Department spokeswoman said Pompeo had not heard any audio recording purporting to indicate Khashoggi was killed.

Pompeo also said the United States must be mindful of important business and government ties with Saudi Arabia as it considers any steps once the facts have been determined.

Turkish investigators entered the Saudi consul’s residence on Wednesday after delays. Their search included the roof and garage, and the deployment of a drone over the premises. The consul-general had left Turkey for Riyadh on Tuesday.

A pro-government Turkish daily published preliminary evidence last week from investigators who it said had identified a 15-member Saudi intelligence team that arrived in Istanbul on diplomatic passports hours before Khashoggi disappeared.

A New York Times report, citing witnesses and other records, linked four suspects to Prince Mohammed’s security detail.

One name matches a LinkedIn profile for a forensic expert who has worked at the interior ministry for 20 years. Another is identified in a diplomatic directory from 2007 as a first secretary at the Saudi Embassy in London. Others resemble officers in the Saudi Army and Air Force.

After his meetings with the king and crown prince on Tuesday, Pompeo said Saudi Arabia has committed to conducting a full investigation.

Asked whether they said Khashoggi was alive or dead, Pompeo said: “They didn’t talk about any of the facts.”

DESERTED CONFERENCE

Prince Mohammed has painted himself as the face of a new, vibrant Saudi Arabia, diversifying its economy away from reliance on oil and making some social changes.

But there has been criticism of some of his moves, including Riyadh’s involvement in the Yemen war, the arrest of women activists, and a diplomatic row with Canada.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his plans to attend an investment conference in Riyadh next week would be revisited on Thursday after U.S. officials have a chance to consult Pompeo. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and top executives from Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) and Glencore joined a growing list of executives who have pulled out.

Saudi Arabia has said it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met his Saudi counterpart on Wednesday for previously scheduled talks, according to a U.S. military readout that made no mention of Khashoggi.[mr/reuters]

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