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US weeks away from responding to Khashoggi murder: Pompeo

US President Donald Trump and his administration are under increasing pressure to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi's death
Trump's administration has remained adamant that Khashoggi’s death will not jeopardise $110bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday it would take a "handful more weeks" before the United States has enough evidence to impose any sanctions in response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

Pompeo, in an interview with KMOX radio in St. Louis, said President Donald Trump had made it clear Washington would respond to the killing. He said the administration is "reviewing putting sanctions on the individuals that we have been able to identify to date that ... were engaged in that murder."

Pompeo’s latest comments are a backtrack from his comments on 18 October when he said the US should give the Saudis “a few more days” to complete their investigation.

Trump and his administration have been under increasing pressure to hold Saudi Arabia - and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in particular - accountable for the death of Khashoggi.

Khashoggi suffocated soon after entering Saudi consulate: Istanbul prosecutor
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The administration has remained adamant that Khashoggi’s death will not jeopardise a $110bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia that was approved last May.

The deal caused an uproar, with Amnesty International accusing Trump of “emboldening” further violations of human rights in the region. 

Last week, Trump intimated for the first time that bin Salman may have been involved, saying that "the prince is running things over there".

Asked on Wednesday if he believed the Saudis had betrayed him in relation to the Khashoggi case, Trump responded: "They haven't betrayed me ... maybe they have betrayed themselves".

A Saudi insider-turned-critic, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

After weeks of denials and changing accounts of what happened, Saudi officials recently admitted that Khashoggi’s murder was premeditated.

Turkey, for its part, said Khashoggi was strangled the moment he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the city’s chief prosecutor said on Wednesday, adding that it was a premeditated murder.

"In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was strangled to death immediately after entering the consulate-general of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 for marriage formalities," chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan said.

Turkey’s president, Recept Tayyip Erdogan, said on Tuesday that the Saudis were protecting the person responsible for Khashoggi's murder, adding that Turkey would not abandon its investigation.

"A game to save somebody lies beneath this," Erdogan told reporters following a speech in parliament. "We won't leave Khashoggi's murder behind."

Also on Thursday, the United States said Saudi Arabia should return Khashoggi’s remains to his family for burial “as soon as possible,” US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.