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Pompeo arrives in Riyadh as pressure intensifies on Saudis to explain Jamal Khashoggi mystery  46 Minutes ago

Source:   USA Today  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday amid unconfirmed reports the Saudis are preparing to assert that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed during an interrogation that went terribly wrong. 

U.S. resident and Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished two weeks ago while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say they have evidence Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic compound, but Saudi officials have called the allegations "baseless."

According to reports by CNN and the New York Times, the Saudi government may soon release a report claiming Khashoggi was accidentally killed as a result of a planned rendition back to Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on those reports.

As pressure grows on the Saudis to explain Khashoggi’s disappearance, Turkish police searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul overnight Monday and announced Tuesday that the Saudi consul’s home in Istanbul would also be searched. A Turkish official told the Associated Press that the embassy search revealed information indicating that Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo is expected to travel to Turkey after his meetings with the king and crown prince. 

Saudi officials continue facing calls from around the world to explain the disappearance of Khashoggi, a critic of the regime. 

In Riyadh, Pompeo held short meetings with Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir before sitting down with the crown prince, Saudi's de facto ruler, inside the royal court.

“We are strong and old allies," the prince said after greeting Pompeo, according to a pool report from journalists traveling with the secretary of state. "We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow,” the Saudi ruler added before reporters were ushered out.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said during Pompeo's meeting with the king, the secretary of state thanked Salman for "his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance."

A number of powerful U.S. executives have already said they are pulling out of an investment summit in Riyadh later this month because of the case. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend the conference, although the Trump administration is also under pressure to nix Mnuchin's trip.

In Congress, meanwhile, lawmakers in both parties have expressed growing concern about the Saudi government's alleged involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, with some suggesting U.S. arms sales to the regime should be halted if it's determined the journalist was killed inside the consulate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the U.S. should "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia" and slammed the crown prince, known by his initials MBS, as a "toxic" figure.
"This guy is a wrecking ball," Graham said on Fox News Tuesday morning, alleging that the prince directed Kashoggi’s murder inside the consulate. "This guy’s gotta go." Directing his remarks to Saudi Arabian officials, he added, "MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself."

Pompeo was dispatched to Saudi Arabia by President Donald Trump, who previously warned of "severe punishment" for the kingdom if it was found to be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Yet Trump also said on Monday, without providing any evidence, that the alleged slaying could have been carried out by "rogue killers."

A lot is potentially at stake for longstanding close U.S.-Saudi Arabia ties. 

Not only is Saudi Arabia a dominant player in global oil markets. It is also a major buyer of U.S. arms and has played a key role in Washington's Middle East foreign policy, including anti-terrorism efforts and acting as a reliable bulwark against Iran. ​



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