Trump de­fends Saudi arms sales amid fury over miss­ing writer

Greenwich Time - - OBITUARIES/NEWS -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­fended con­tin­u­ing huge sales of U.S. weapons to Saudi Ara­bia on Thurs­day de­spite ris­ing pres­sure from law­mak­ers to pun­ish the king­dom over the dis­ap­pear­ance of a Saudi jour­nal­ist who lived in the United States and is now feared dead.

As sen­a­tors pushed for sanc­tions un­der a hu­man rights law and also ques­tioned Amer­i­can sup­port for the Saudi-led bomb­ing cam­paign in Ye­men, Trump ap­peared re­luc­tant to rock the boat in a re­la­tion­ship that has been key to his strat­egy in the Mid­dle East and which he de­scribed as “ex­cel­lent.” He said with­hold­ing sales would hurt the U.S. econ­omy.

“I don’t like stop­ping mas­sive amounts of money that’s been pour­ing into our coun­try. They are spend­ing 110 bil­lion on mil­i­tary equip­ment,” Trump said, re­fer­ring to pro­posed sales an­nounced in May 2017 when he went to Saudi Ara­bia in the first over­seas trip of his pres­i­dency. He warned that the Saudis could in­stead buy from Rus­sia or China.

Trump main­tained that the U.S. is be­ing “very tough” as it looks into the case of Ja­mal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi lead­er­ship and a con­trib­u­tor to The Washington Post who has been miss­ing since Oct. 2. He had en­tered a Saudi con­sulate in the Turk­ish city of Is­tan­bul to get mar­riage pa­per­work as his fi­ancee waited out­side and hasn’t been seen since.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials say they fear Saudi Ara­bia killed and dis­mem­bered Khashoggi but have of­fered no ev­i­dence be­yond video footage of the jour­nal­ist en­ter­ing the con­sulate and the ar­rival in the coun­try of what they de­scribe as a 15-mem­ber Saudi team that al­legedly tar­geted him. Saudi Ara­bia has de­nied the al­le­ga­tion as “base­less.”

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