US Trump won’t halt Saudi sales US Hur­ri­can brings pain to Flor­ida

The West Australian - - INSIDE COVER -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has said he sees no rea­son to cut off arms sales to Saudi Ara­bia be­cause of the dis­ap­pear­ance of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, pos­si­bly set­ting up a clash with the US Congress.

Mr Trump also said the US might be closer to find­ing out what hap­pened to Khashoggi, a prom­i­nent critic of Saudi poli­cies who was last seen en­ter­ing the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 2.

Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties be­lieve Khashoggi was killed in­side the build­ing and his body re­moved, al­le­ga­tions that Riyadh dis­misses as base­less.

In a sign Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia might be look­ing for a way for­ward, Turkey ac­cepted a Saudi pro­posal to form a joint work­ing group to in­ves­ti­gate the case, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted a pres­i­den­tial spokesman as say­ing.

Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tors were pre­pared to en­ter the con­sulate, but were await­ing fi­nal au­tho­ri­sa­tion from the Saudis.

Mr Trump said he saw no rea­son to block Saudi pur­chases of US arms or its in­vest­ments in the US de­spite the jour­nal­ist’s case, say­ing the Gulf na­tion would just move its money into Rus­sia and China.

“They’re spend­ing $US110 bil­lion on mil­i­tary equip­ment and on things that cre­ate jobs . . . for this coun­try,” he said.

“I don’t like the con­cept of stop­ping an in­vest­ment of $US110 bil­lion into the United States, be­cause you know what they’re go­ing to do . . . they’re go­ing to take that money and spend it in Rus­sia or China or some place else.”

His com­ments prompted crit­i­cism from mem­bers of the US Sen­ate, in­clud­ing from some fel­low Repub­li­cans, many of whom signed a let­ter on Wed­nes­day forc­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion to in­ves­ti­gate Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance and paving the way to pos­si­ble sanc­tions on Saudi of­fi­cials.

“If it’s found that they mur­dered a jour­nal­ist, that will hugely change our re­la­tion­ship,” Sen­a­tor Bob Corker, chair­man of the Sen­ate for­eign re­la­tions com­mit­tee, said.

“There will have to be sig­nif­i­cant sanc­tions placed at the high­est lev­els.”

The Khashoggi in­ci­dent might make it very hard for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to win con­gres­sional ap­proval for arms sales to the Saudis.

Un­der US law, ma­jor for­eign sales of mil­i­tary equip­ment can be blocked by Congress.

Bri­tish bil­lion­aire Richard Bran­son says his Vir­gin Group will sus­pend talks with Saudi Ara­bia’s Pub­lic In­vest­ment Fund over a planned $US1 bil­lion in­vest­ment in the group’s space ven­tures, in light of the dis­ap­pear­ance of Khashoggi.

“What has re­port­edly hap­pened in Turkey, if proved true, would clearly change the abil­ity of any of us in the West to do busi­ness with the Saudi Govern­ment,” Mr Bran­son said.

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