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Khashoggi warns in last column of free rein to silence media

24 October 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration will consider a "wide range" of responses if it is determined that Saudi leaders or officials played a role in the alleged murder of us - based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

While earlier in the week the president questioned whether the audio recording existed and cautioned against blaming Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi's disappearance, on Thursday afternoon his administration abruptly canceled a visit to Saudi Arabia by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to attend a large investment conference hosted by the Crown Prince, whom Turkish officials have reportedly claimed was behind Khashoggi's killing.

Turkish officials say they have audio and video recordings that show Mr Khashoggi being murdered by a team of Saudi agents.

And a senior US official said Pompeo had warned the Saudi crown prince that his credibility as a future leader was at stake, reflecting the administration's concern about how the case could affect relations.

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The overnight announcements in Saudi state media came more than two weeks after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for paperwork required to marry his Turkish fiancée, and never came out.

However Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said an argument broke out between Khashoggi and staff inside the consulate, leading to a fight in which he died, the New York Times reported.

"Discussions between citizen Jamal Khashoggi and those who met him while he was in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul led to a quarrel and a physical confrontation, which resulted in his death", the Saudi government said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Khashoggi's disappearance during an interview Friday with VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren.

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Turkish officials have yet to release any evidence in the case, although forensic teams have searched both the consulate and the Saudi consul general's residence.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has been leading the charge among House Democrats by saying the US should end its political alliance with Saudi Arabia, cease multi-billion dollar arms deals to the country; and also shut off military support for the country's ongoing assault on Yemen - a war which the United Nations warned earlier this week has put as many as 13 million people on the brink of starvation.

Mr Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post and an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime. Reports say he was tortured and murdered inside the building before being cut into pieces and smuggled out of the consulate in bags.

Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the AP in recent days, including Wednesday.

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While it is not immediately clear whether the search revealed anything, investigators were seen carrying away bags and boxes. No report has identified the individuals detained or linked the detentions to other reports surfacing this week that the Turkish government was investigating 15 Saudi nationals who traveled to the consulate on short notice.

"It's a lot of people, a lot of people involved, and I think it's a great first step", Trump, who has made close ties with Saudi Arabia a centrepiece of his foreign policy, told reporters in Arizona.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said secretary-general Antonio Guterres remained very concerned about Mr Khashoggi's fate and "has repeatedly called for the truth to come out in this situation".

Human rights activists hold pictures of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 9, 2018.

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In recent days, key worldwide figures have announced they've cancelled plans to attend the Saudi summit.

Khashoggi warns in last column of free rein to silence media