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Trump 'not satisfied' with Saudi explanation for Khashoggi's killing

Several world leaders say Saudi Arabia's story is not credible, but only Germany commits to freezing arms deals with Gulf kingdom
'I am not satisfied with what I've heard' regarding Khashoggi's death, US president says (Reuters)

Donald Trump says he's "not satisfied" by the explanations he's heard so far into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I am not satisfied with what I've heard" regarding Khashoggi's death, the US president told reporters on Monday, a few days after Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi, a prominent columnist for the Washington Post, was killed at its consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

After weeks of denials and changing accounts of what happened, Saudi officials said on Friday that Khashoggi, 59, was killed after a fight broke out inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Still, Trump's Treasury Secretary met with Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Monday and stressed "the importance of [the] Saudi-US strategic partnership," according to Riyadh's foreign ministry.

Trump had initially said on Friday night that the Saudi account is credible, describing Riyadh's confirmation that Khashoggi was dead as a "great first step".

Several countries and human rights groups have dismissed the Saudi account of what happened, however, saying it lacks any credibility and called for an independent probe into Khashoggi's death.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to halt German arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the case is cleared up.

Merkel decried what she called "the monstrosity there in the Saudi consulate in Turkey" during a campaign rally in the town of Ortenberg, about 50 km northeast of Frankfurt.

"It must be cleared up. As long as it's not cleared up, there will be no arms exports to Saudi Arabia. I assure you of that very decidedly," she said.

Other countries weigh response

Other countries, including the United Kingdom, have also said their response to Khashoggi’s killing will depend on the final results of Saudi Arabia’s investigation.

On Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the actions the UK takes will depend on “the credibility of the final explanation given by Saudi Arabia” and the UK’s confidence “that such an appalling episode cannot and will not be repeated”.

“The claim that Mr Khashoggi died in a fight does not amount to a credible explanation. There remains an urgent need to establish exactly what happened and anyone found responsible for any offence must be held fully accountable,” he wrote on Twitter.

France declined to say on Monday if it would follow Germany’s lead and suspend its own weapons sales to the Gulf kingdom.

Olivier Gauvin, the French foreign ministry’s deputy spokesman, said France's arms sales control policy was strict and based on a case-by-case analysis by an inter-ministerial committee, Reuters reported.

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"Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are examined in this context," he told a daily briefing, without elaborating.

Canada has also condemned Khashoggi’s killing and joined its European allies in calling for a thorough investigation into what happened.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has not directly answered repeated questions about whether Canada would suspend future or existing arms deals with Riyadh - including a $12bn agreement to ship Canadian-made, light-armoured vehicles to the Saudis - over Khashoggi's death.

"We are having conversations about this murder, the importance of having an investigation, and the importance of knowing exactly what happened and who is responsible for this murder. We are also talking about a just reaction that our country must have and the way we can work in close cooperation with our allies," Freeland told reporters Monday.