Saudis said ready to concede writer was slain in botched interrogation

Tuesday, 16 Oct, 2018

President Donald Trump said he spoke to Saudi Arabia's King Salman and that he "denies any knowledge" about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who has been living in the U.S.

Turkish officials have accused Saudi Arabia of sending in a 15-man team to interrogate, kill, and dismember Khashoggi's body with a bone saw before flying it back to his native country.

Trump says he doesn't "want to get" into King Salman's mind, but says, "it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers".

US lawmakers also have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis if found responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance. But he said the royal court would soon put out a narrative that an official within the kingdom's intelligence services - who happened to be a friend of Prince Mohammed - had carried out the killing.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is still scheduled to attend the October 23 Future Investment Initiative in Saudi Arabia, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News. United States intelligence officials have reported they are certain the interference took place in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The recordings purportedly indicated that the prominent Saudi journalist was tortured and killed at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, according to the Turkish Sabah daily.

Permission for that apparently came after a late Sunday night call between Saudi King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The issue has strained Saudi Arabia's ties with its closest Western allies.

In protest of Khashoggi's disappearance, several USA businesses leaders have pulled out of next week's Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, dubbed "Davos in the Desert", after the annual meeting of world economic interests in Switzerland.

In the meantime, Lieberman said it's important for the U.S.to maintain its relationship with Saudi Arabia because the king is "the best hope we've had for modernizing Saudi Arabia in a long time". He said any response to Khashoggi's killing "needs to be strong, not symbolic", including the possibility of cutting off US weapons sales to Riyadh, or it would undermine the USA moral standing in the world.

In recent days worldwide business leaders have announced that they are pulling out of the kingdom's upcoming investment forum. The members arrived by unmarked police cars but said nothing to journalists waiting outside as they entered the building. "Who knows?" the president said, describing the situation as "terrible".

In an earlier phone call with Trump in April, King Salman reiterated Riyadh's position that Jerusalem must remain the capital of Palestine amid speculation that the kingdom had given up on the longstanding position. "Imposing any type of sanctions on Saudi Arabia by the West will cause the kingdom to resort to other options", he said. The Saudi government could not be reached immediately for comment on the CNN report.

Khashoggi, who recently has been living in Virginia and writing columns for The Washington Post, hasn't been seen since October 2, when he entered the Saudi Consulate to handle paperwork for his upcoming marriage.

The Arab News' headline was above a front-page editorial by Dubai-based real-estate tycoon Khalaf al-Habtoor, calling on Gulf Arab nations to boycott global firms now backing out of a planned economic summit in Riyadh later this month.