Donald Trump 'not satisfied' with Saudi Arabia's account of Jamal Khashoggi's death, but refuses to halt arms deal

Washington: President Donald Trump has said he is "not satisfied" with Saudi Arabia's account of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but asserted that he would not like to scrap an $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh despite a global outrage over the dissident scribe's brutal killing.

Saudi Arabia in a statement Saturday said Khashoggi (60) died following a "fistfight" at its consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, without disclosing any details on the whereabouts of his body.

A demonstrator holds up a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Reuters

A demonstrator holds up a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Reuters

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi - a critic of the Saudi government - was murdered and his body dismembered.

"I'm not satisfied until we find the answer," Trump said, adding that sanctions were a possibility, but that halting an arms deal would "hurt us more than it would hurt them".

"It is something that we don't like. It's very serious stuff. And we're going to get to the bottom of it and will make that determination," Trump told reporters in Nevada on Saturday.

Trump said it was "possible" that the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not know about the killing.

His comment came when asked about his previous statement that he would be considering severe consequences for Saudi Arabia following the journalist's death.

Trump also said the Congress would have a role to play in it."We'll have very much Congress involved in determining what to do," he said.

Responding to a question, Trump indicated that he would let the Congressmen take lead on the issue of particularly determining the action that needs to be taken against Saudi Arabia.

However, he insisted that he would not like to scrap the mega arms and investment deal with Saudi Arabia as this would impact jobs in the US.

"We have $450 billion, $110 billion of which is a military order, but this is equipment and various things ordered from Saudi Arabia," Trump said.

"It's over a million jobs; that's not helpful for us to cancel an order like that. That hurts us far more than it hurts them... but there are other things that could be done, including sanctions."

The president said he is also speaking with states where jobs could be impacted.

"We're going to find out. We're going to find out who knows what, where and we'll figure it out," he said, indicating that things might be clearer by Monday.

"I might know a lot by Monday. I know a lot already. We're going to know over the next two or three days, we're going to know a lot. We're getting a lot of information in as we speak," he said.

Describing Saudi Arabia as a "great ally", he said it has also been a tremendous investor in the US.

"They invested, and the jobs are .. we're right now the largest supplier of energy in the world. We are, the United States. And it happened, and I hate to tell you, over the last 18 months and we're now the biggest in the world, Trump said.

"But still they're a major, major supplier. They're actually number two, and we have to take all of these things into account. Very important,” he said.

The president said, "Saudi Arabia has been a great ally of ours. That's why this is so sad. Look at what goes on in Iran and the viciousness of that regime, and it's brutal. It's a brutal regime."

"The killing, the horror stories, you hear them and you write about them, very well, I've seen you write about them very well. It's a tough part of the world, there's no question about it,” Trump said.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has said 18 persons have been arrested and an in-depth investigation into the case is being conducted.

Khashoggi had not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

After denying any involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi for two weeks, Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning said he had died in a fistfight at the consulate.

"Preliminary investigations revealed that the discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him... at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a fist fight with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to his death, may his soul rest in peace," Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in the statement.

However, top American lawmakers have said the Saudi statement was not credible and demanded action against the Arab nation. Even allies of Saudi Arabia have criticised its account.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the explanation of Khashoggi's death "inadequate" while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said many questions "remain unanswered".

The United Kingdom Foreign Office described it as "a terrible act" and said the people behind the killing "must be held to account".

Both the European Union and the United Nations have called for a proper investigation.


Updated Date: Oct 21, 2018 17:37 PM

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