Wednesday 19 December 2018

Trump demands answers from Saudi Arabia on missing reporter

Officials heard planning to lure Khashoggi out of US, article claims

Pressure: A woman speaks to security personnel at the front door of Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty
Pressure: A woman speaks to security personnel at the front door of Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty

Michael Silke

US President Donald Trump has demanded Saudi Arabia provides answers over the disappearance of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials suspect was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Trump administration sharply upped the pressure over the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi, a 'Washington Post' contributor, as it was reported that Prince Mohammed himself had ordered an operation targeting the journalist.

Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure Mr Khashoggi from the US state of Virginia, where he resided, and detain him, the 'Washington Post' reported, citing unnamed US officials discussing intelligence intercepts.

A source told the newspaper that US intelligence "intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him". The Saudis hoped to "lure" Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia "and lay hands on him there", the source said.

But State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said they had no such tip.

"The US had no advance knowledge of Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance" or of any kind of threat, he said.

Mr Trump said he had talked "more than once" and "at the highest levels" to partners in Saudi Arabia, which is one of Washington's closest allies and a key market for the US weapons industry. "We're demanding everything," he said of Mr Khashoggi's disappearance on October 2. "We cannot let this happen, to reporters, to anybody.

"We don't like it and we're going to get to the bottom of it," he added. In a later interview with 'Fox News at Night', Mr Trump said "it would not be a good thing at all" if the Saudis were proven to be involved.

Missing: Jamal Khashoggi is believed to have been murdered. Photo: AFP
Missing: Jamal Khashoggi is believed to have been murdered. Photo: AFP

Twenty-two senators wrote to Mr Trump invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which requires the president to open an investigation and determine whether sanctions should be imposed.

Asked in the Fox interview about suggestions in Congress that arms sales to the kingdom be blocked, Mr Trump replied that such a move would hurt the US economy. "Frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country," he said.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had all spoken to Prince Mohammed over the past two days.

Irish Independent

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