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Saudis vow 'full' probe of Khashoggi murder, US defence secretary says

Pentagon chief Mattis says murder of Khashoggi undermines regional stability of Middle East
US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, left, with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Sunday (AFP)

Saudi Arabia promised a "full" investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday after speaking with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at a conference in Bahrain the previous day. 

"We discussed it... the need of transparency, full and complete investigation. Full agreement from FM Jubeir, no reservations at all," the Pentagon chief told reporters on a flight from Manama to Prague where he will mark the centenary of Czechoslovakia.

US President Donald Trump has said he wants to get to the bottom of the case, while also highlighting Riyadh's role as an ally against Tehran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of US arms, Reuters said.

Speaking later on Sunday at a joint news conference in Prague with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Mattis was asked how an investigation would be able to determine whether Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any involvement in the killing.

"Certainly Turkey with the evidence that they have compiled will ensure that there is more than one review of what is going on there and I am certain the investigation will include the evidence that Turkey has put forward so far," Mattis said.

Saudi journalist Khashoggi, 59, who had criticised the crown prince, had lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017, writing columns for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October to complete paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.

Sources have told MEE that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered by a hit squad of 15 Saudis sent to Istanbul to kill him.

After weeks of denials, Riyadh has sought to draw a line under the crisis with an investigation, AFP said.

Prince Mohammed, heir to the oil-rich nation's throne, publicly denounced the murder as "repulsive" while the Saudi prosecutor acknowledged for the first time last week that based on the evidence of a Turkish investigation the killing had been "premeditated".

Still, Riyadh on Saturday dismissed Ankara's calls to extradite 18 Saudis being held over Khashoggi's murder.

Khashoggi killing undermines regional stability of Middle East, Mattis says
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Addressing the forum in Manama on Saturday, Mattis warned that "the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly".

Mattis added that the killing undermined Middle Eastern stability and that Washington would take additional measures against those responsible.

The murder, which has tarnished the image of the crown prince, has sparked a wave of international criticism and rocked Washington's relations with the kingdom.

The US relies heavily on Saudi Arabia to counter Iran's influence in the region and to defend the security of Israel.

Asked whether the US would limit its support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Mattis said on Sunday: "We'll continue to support the defence of the kingdom."

Saudi Arabia is leading a Western-backed alliance of Sunni Muslim Arab states trying to restore the internationally recognised government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Iran-aligned Houthis in 2015.

The United States and other Western powers provide arms, refuelling and intelligence to the alliance.

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