Trump says won't risk $110bn in Saudi arms deals over Khashoggi

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WASH­ING­TON: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says he is not will­ing to throw away bil­lions of dol­lars in mil­i­tary deals with Saudi Ara­bia over the sus­pected mur­der of a prom­i­nent Saudi jour­nal­ist at the hands of the Riyadh regime’s death squads in Turkey.

“What good does that do us?” Trump asked, speak­ing to re­porters in the Oval Of­fice on Thurs­day, nearly a week since Ja­mal Khashoggi’s mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance af­ter en­ter­ing the Saudi con­sulate in the Turk­ish city of Is­tan­bul.

“This took place in Turkey and to the best of our knowl­edge, Khashoggi is not a United States cit­i­zen,” Trump added, brush­ing aside the fact that the jour­nal­ist lived in the US.

Con­cerned by Riyadh’s record of con­tin­ued dis­re­gard for the right to free speech, sev­eral Amer­i­can law­mak­ers have asked Trump to pres­sure Riyadh un­til it comes clear about Khashoggi’s fate.

The most di­rect call for pun­ish­ing Riyadh came from Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Rand Paul, who wrote in a tweet ear­lier in the day that the Saudi killings of dis­si­dents and op­po­si­tion jour­nal­ists won’t stop un­less the US stops “arm­ing and as­sist­ing” Riyadh.

“I would not be in fa­vor of stop­ping a coun­try from spend­ing $110 bil­lion — which is an all-time record — and let­ting Rus­sia have that money and let­ting China have that money,” Trump told re­porters, re­fer­ring to an arms deal he signed with Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man dur­ing his maiden trip to Saudi Ara­bia last year.

In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view, Trump told Fox News that while he didn’t “like” the in­ci­dent and had as­signed in­ves­ti­ga­tors to get to the bot­tom of the is­sue, re­la­tions with Saudi Ara­bia re­mained “ex­cel­lent.”

“We want to find out what hap­pened,” Trump said. “He went in and it doesn’t look like he came out.”

The US State De­part­ment an­nounced Thurs­day that Saudi Am­bas­sador to the US Prince Khalid bin Sal­man bin Ab­du­laziz had headed back home to get more in­for­ma­tion about the case.

“I’m told that he’s headed back to his home coun­try, and we ex­pect some in­for­ma­tion when he gets back,” State De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert told re­porters.

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