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Pompeo says US 'not covering up' for Khashoggi's killer

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets Saudi Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on January 14, 2019
The US has revoked visas from nearly two dozen Saudi officials and froze the assets of 17 others

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday denied Washington was "covering up" the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and promised further action.

"America is not covering up for a murder," Pompeo told reporters in Budapest when asked about criticism by a senior Democrat.

The remarks came after US President Donald Trump missed a deadline set by Congress to reply by Friday on whether Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of the Washington Post contributor.


Pompeo said that Trump's administration was "working diligently" on its investigation.

"The president has been very clear -- couldn't be more clear -- as we get additional information, we will continue to hold all of those responsible accountable," he said.

Khashoggi, who lived in the United States, was strangled to death and dismembered in October after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to take care of paperwork for his marriage, according to officials.

Trump said nothing on the congressional deadline, while congressional aides said that Pompeo had sent them a letter in which he outlined actions over the killing.

Pompeo raised Khashoggi's killing among other issues during a meeting in Washington Thursday with Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, according to the State Department.

The administration revoked the visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials and froze the assets of 17 others.


- New revelations -

Trump has publicly said he is not concerned whether Prince Mohammed was involved, arguing that the Saudi alliance benefits Washington due to the kingdom's purchases of weapons and its hostility to regional rival Iran.

The ignored deadline coincided with new embarrassing developments for the prince.

The New York Times, citing officials who had seen US intelligence, said Prince Mohammed had warned in an intercepted conversation with an aide in 2017 that he would go after Khashoggi "with a bullet" if he did not return to Saudi Arabia from the United States.

US intelligence understood that the ambitious 33-year-old heir apparent was ready to kill the journalist, although he may not have literally meant to shoot him, according to the newspaper.

Special UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard after visiting Turkey on Thursday said that the killing of Khashoggi, who had written critical pieces on Saudi Arabia in the Post, had been "planned and perpetrated" by Saudi officials.


In light of the revelations, Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee said Friday she hoped pressure from US lawmakers would encourage the Trump administration to take a tougher stance on the killing.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Hatice Cengiz left the door open to a meeting with Trump if certain conditions were met, a softening of her position in December when she rejected an invitation from the US president.

"A visit to the United States could take place in March," Cengiz said, adding she hoped Trump would have a change of "attitude" about the murder.


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