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Pompeo, Saudi King Meet Tuesday        10/16 06:22

   U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Tuesday with Saudi Arabia's King 
Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal 
Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in 
Istanbul.

   ISTANBUL (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Tuesday with 
Saudi Arabia's King Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi 
writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi 
Consulate in Istanbul.

   Pompeo's arrival came hours after a Turkish forensics team finished a search 
inside the consulate. Police planned a second search, this one of the Saudi 
consul's home in Istanbul, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.

   Turkish officials say they fear Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside 
the Istanbul consulate. Saudi officials previously have called the allegations 
"baseless," but reports in U.S. media on Tuesday suggested the kingdom may 
acknowledge the writer was killed there.

   Pompeo landed in Riyadh on Tuesday morning and was welcomed by Saudi Foreign 
Minister Adel al-Jubeir on landing. He didn't make any remarks to the media.

   Soon after, Pompeo arrived at a royal palace, where King Salman greeted him. 
America's top diplomat thanked the king "for accepting my visit on behalf of 
President (Donald) Trump" before going into a closed-door meeting.

   Trump had dispatched Pompeo to speak to the monarch of the world's top oil 
exporter over Khashoggi's disappearance. Trump, after speaking on Monday with 
King Salman, said without offering evidence that the slaying could have been 
carried out by "rogue killers." That potentially offers the U.S.-allied kingdom 
a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm.

   "The king firmly denied any knowledge of it," Trump told reporters Monday. 
"It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who 
knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a 
flat denial."

   However, left unsaid was the fact that any decision in the ultraconservative 
kingdom rests solely with the ruling Al Saud family. Pompeo also was to meet 
with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically 
about for The Washington Post and whose rise to power prompted the writer to go 
into a self-imposed exile in the United States.

   "The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis 
between the two countries and has succeeded in finding a pathway to deescalate 
tensions," said Ayham Kamel, the head of the Eurasia Group's Mideast and North 
African practice. "Riyadh will have to provide some explanation of the 
journalist's disappearance, but in a manner that distances the leadership from 
any claim that a decision was made at senior levels to assassinate the 
prominent journalist."

   CNN reported that the Saudis were going to admit the killing happened but 
deny the king or crown prince had ordered it --- which does not match what 
analysts and experts know about the kingdom's inner workings.

   The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would suggest that an 
official within the kingdom's intelligence services --- a friend of Prince 
Mohammed --- had carried out the killing. According to that reported claim, the 
crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to 
Saudi Arabia, but the intelligence official was tragically incompetent as he 
eagerly sought to prove himself. Both reports cited anonymous people said to be 
familiar with the Saudi plans.

   Saudi officials have not answered repeated requests for comment over recent 
days from The Associated Press.

   Saudi officials have been in and out of the building since Khashoggi's 
disappearance Oct. 2 without being stopped. Under the Vienna Convention, 
diplomatic posts are technically foreign soil that must be protected and 
respected by host countries.

   Turkey has wanted to search the consulate for days. Permission apparently 
came after a late Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkish President 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In statements after the call, both praised the creation 
of a joint Saudi-Turkish probe.

   The Turkish inspection team included a prosecutor, a deputy prosecutor, 
anti-terror police and forensic experts, the state-run Anadolu news agency 
reported. Certain areas of the consulate were to remain off-limits, although 
officials would be able to inspect surveillance cameras, Turkish media reported.

   What evidence Turkish officials gathered at the consulate remains unknown, 
though Erdogan told journalists on Tuesday that police sought traces of "toxic 
materials," without elaborating. Turkey's private DHA news agency said the 
Saudi consul's office was among the rooms searched.

   On Tuesday, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official acknowledged police want to 
search the Saudi consul's home as well. Surveillance footage previously leaked 
in Turkish media shows vehicles moving between the consulate and the consul's 
home immediately after Khashoggi's disappearance.

   The Foreign Ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with 
government regulations.

   Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, 
criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its 
arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a driving ban for 
women. Those policies are all seen as initiatives of Prince Mohammed, the son 
of King Salman, who is next in line to the throne.

   Prince Mohammed has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for 
foreign investment. But Khashoggi's disappearance has led several business 
leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in 
Riyadh, called the Future Investment Initiative.

   They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested 
billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief 
Executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

   Trump previously warned of "severe punishment" for the kingdom if it was 
found to be involved in Khashoggi's disappearance, which has spooked investors 
in Saudi Arabia and SoftBank, a Japanese firm that manages tens of billions of 
dollars for the kingdom.

   Trump's warning drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its 
state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil 
production as a weapon. The U.S. president has been after King Salman and OPEC 
to boost production for weeks to drive down high crude oil prices, caused in 
part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran after the U.S. 
withdrawal from that's country's nuclear deal with world powers.


(KA)

 
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