Trump blames 'rogue killers' over Khashoggi

President Trump who was given a rapturous welcome in Kentucky on Saturday said in a TV interview yesterday that Riyadh faced “severe punishment” if it was involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s death

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But Trump, who has frequently boasted about his business ties with the kingdom, suggested during the CBS interview that ending US arms sales to Saudi Arabia would not be an option, saying, "I don't want to hurt jobs". The program takes guests on excursions with Times correspondents and other experts. "All affected passengers will have their tour costs refunded in full".

Pundits say the new killed-by-accident storyline protects Jared Kushner pal, Royal Prince MBS, and his "transforming Saudi Arabia" brand.

Turkish officials say they believe he was murdered there and his body removed, in a case that has provoked an global outcry.

They were published shortly after a report in the Washington Post - for whom Mr Khashoggi worked - cited U.S. government officials who believed that audio recordings proved he had been murdered while visiting the Saudi embassy. The team arrived by unmarked police cars at the consulate and said nothing to journalists waiting outside as they entered the building.

Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée said that he was cheerful about going to the Saudi consulate
Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée said that he was cheerful about going to the Saudi consulateVIRGINIA MAYO AP

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the mission and claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.

According to a Turkish presidential source, who asked not to be named, Erdogan and the king discussed "the issue of shedding light on the case of Jamal Khashoggi" and also emphasised the "importance of creating a joint working group within the framework of the investigation".

Trump's comments came after a telephone conversation with King Salman, father of the crown prince, the first such talks since the crisis erupted. The kingdom has called such allegations "baseless" but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow declined to speculate on what Donald Trump might do after the president promised "severe punishment" in a 60 Minutes interview, if the US determines that Khashoggi was indeed killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

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On Sunday, JP Morgan CEO James Dimon and Ford chairman Bill Ford said they would also not attend.

The Saudi stock market had tumbled 7.2 percent over the previous two trading days but rebounded 2 percent on Monday.

The exchange dropped by over 500 points, then clawed back some of the losses, ending the day down more than 4 per cent. The kingdom has poured $US100 billion into the firm's tech investing.

And business leaders are abandoning the conference, too.

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The Saudi Embassy in Washington later tweeted what it called a clarification, thanking countries including the United States "for refraining from jumping to conclusions" over the case.

"It's either going to be a partial admission of guilt while trying to absolve the top level, or they'll say they haven't found anything", said Steffen Hertog, an associate professor of at the London School of Economics who closely follows Gulf politics.

Western diplomats have expressed private concern that Saudi Arabia could have used the lengthy interim since 2 October to remove any traces of Khashoggi's interrogation by Saudi officials. He believes it is part of an escalating crackdown orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, to silence his critics.

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