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Saudi crown prince 'denies knowledge' of Jamal Khashoggi's fate


The Saudi Crown Prince has assured Donald Trump that he has no knowledge of the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had spoken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and been assured that a "full" probe into the disappearance of a critical journalist was underway.

"Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate," Trump tweeted. 

He "told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter. Answers will be forthcoming shortly."

The disappearance and suspected murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has embarrassed Mohammed and strained relations with Washington.

Turkish officials search consulate

Earlier in teh day, a high-level Turkish official says police have found "certain evidence" during their search of the Saudi consulate showing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed there.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the investigation.

Turkish officials say Saudi agents killed and dismembered the writer at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi Arabia previously called the allegation "baseless," but US media reports suggest the Saudis may soon acknowledge Khashoggi was killed there, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation.

"Sanction" the Gulf nation

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham slammed Saudi Arabia, urging Mr Trump to "sanction the hell out of" the Gulf nation.

An influential US Senate ally of the president pledged Tuesday that Congress would take decisive action against Saudi Arabia over a missing writer, calling for the ouster of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"This guy is a wrecking ball," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told "Fox and Friends," one of the president's favourite news broadcasts.

Graham, discussing the feared killing of Saudi journalist and US resident Khashoggi, a critic of the monarchy, was backed by Marco Rubio, another of the top Republicans in the upper house, who described the crown prince as "young and aggressive."

On Monday after speaking by telephone with King Salman, Trump was far less direct, suggesting that the October 2 disappearance of Khashoggi, who had been working with The Washington Post, could have been at the hands of "rogue killers."

But Graham, who has recently ingratiated himself with Trump, launched a tirade against Riyadh.

"I was on the (Senate) floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because they're a good ally," Graham told Fox.

"There is a difference between a country and an individual," he added. "The MBS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage."

Graham added that he felt "personally offended" by the kingdom's leadership.

"They have nothing but contempt for us. Why would you put a guy like me and the president in this box after all the president has done?" Graham fumed. "This guy has got to go."

File photo, Senator Lindsey Graham
File photo, Senator Lindsey Graham

As for the steps Trump should take, Graham pledged that Congress would "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia."

Rubio swatted away Trump's reservations about sanctions that might freeze tens of billions of dollars worth of Saudi arms sales.

"There are other countries we could sell that to," Rubio told CNN.

"I don't care how much money it is, there isn't enough money in the world to purchase back our credibility on human rights and the way nations should conduct themselves," he added.

"This is a fear we've had for a long time... that the crown prince is a young and aggressive guy that would overestimate how much room he had to do things."

File photo, Senator Marco Rubio.
File photo, Senator Marco Rubio.

Congress "will act" in a way that will likely alter the US-Saudi relationship for the foreseeable future, Rubio asserted.

"What those specific measures are obviously is going to be up for debate, but they will be strong and meaningful," he added.

"We will see what the administration does. it sounds to me in the end of the day they will also follow suit."

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