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Trump speaks with Saudi King about missing journalist

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London Britain, September 29, 2018. Khashoggi is believed to have been killed and dismembered earlier this month.

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump said on Monday that he spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia and that the ruler denied any knowledge of the disappearance of a Saudi dissident journalist. After the call, Mr Trump said he was "immediately sending" his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to meet with the king.

Mr Trump's comments, in a morning Twitter post, come as the Saudis have given Turkish authorities permission to search the Saudi consulate in Turkey, where local officials believe the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was killed and dismembered earlier this month.

Mr Trump wrote: "Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened "to our Saudi Arabian citizen." He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!"

The president did not provide additional details about his conversation with King Salman.

Mr Trump previously said the episode would not have an impact on US relations with Saudi Arabia, one of the president's closest allies in the Middle East.

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In an interview with CBS on Sunday, Mr Trump said that even as the Saudis deny involvement in Mr Khashoggi's disappearance, it was still possible that they were responsible.

Mr Trump said that because Mr Khashoggi is a journalist, any crime was even more serious.

"There's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case," Mr Trump told CBS. "We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment."

Mr Khashoggi went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 to obtain a document for his wedding and he has not been seen or heard from since.

The columnist is one of the best-known media personalities in the kingdom and has been a confidant to several previous kings and princes.

Mr Khashoggi moved to Washington after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old power behind the Saudi throne, began a kingdomwide anticorruption crackdown, including efforts to silence dissidents.

Friends of Mr Khashoggi's speculated that the columnist's harsh words about the crown prince in columns he contributed to The Washington Post  including comparing Prince Mohammed to President Vladimir Putin of Russia  landed him on the prince's blacklist.


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