WASHINGTON, Oct 14 – President Donald Trump has said the US will inflict “severe punishment” on Saudi Arabia if the kingdom is found to be responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
He said he would be “very upset and angry if that were the case”, but ruled out halting big military contracts.
Mr Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, vanished on 2 October after visiting its consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia dismissed allegations that it ordered his killing as “lies”.
The interior minister said on Friday that the kingdom was keen to uncover “the whole truth”, stressing reports “about orders to kill” are “baseless”.
A Turkish security source has told the BBC that officials had audio and video evidence proving Mr Khashoggi, who writes for the Washington Post, was murdered inside the consulate.
The country’s Foreign Minister, Mevut Cavusoglu, said Saudi Arabia was not yet co-operating with the investigation.
He urged it to do so and allow Turkish officials to enter the consulate.
In an interview with CBS News, Mr Trump said that, if true, the fact that a journalist was murdered was “terrible and disgusting”.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment,” he said.
“As of this moment, they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes,” he added.
However, he said that there were “other ways of punishing” than cancelling military contracts, which powers like Russia and China were interested in.
“I don’t want to hurt jobs, I don’t want to lose an order like that,” Mr Trump said.
Speaking to journalists later, Mr Trump said his first hope had been that Mr Khashoggi was not killed, but “maybe that is not looking good”.
He would probably call Saudi King Salman “tonight or tomorrow”, he added.
What other reaction has there been?
On Friday UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the BBC that “this kind of incident is multiplying” and urged the international community to respond.
He said that, once it was clear what had happened to Mr Khashoggi, governments should decide “in the appropriate way” whether to attend an investment conference to be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh this month.