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Pompeo denies US trying to cover up Khashoggi killing

Updated: 2019-02-13 07:18

A demonstrator holds picture of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct 5, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON-The Trump administration pushed back on Monday against allegations that it was trying to cover up the killing of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi when it failed to send Congress a report determining who was responsible for his death.

"America is not covering up for a murder," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the US Embassy in Budapest.

Late last year, 22 bipartisan members of the Senate called for an investigation into Khashoggi's Oct 2 death and specifically whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible. The investigation was requested under provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The act required the president to report back by Feb 8 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on whether the crown prince was responsible. In a Feb 8 letter to Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Pompeo said US President Donald Trump had called for a prompt and open investigation into the death of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who had been critical of the royal family.

The Saudi authorities said Khashoggi died in a "brawl" in the consulate, and denied that the Saudi crown prince had ordered the killing.

In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Pompeo wrote that in multiple meetings with Saudi officials and in numerous public statements, he had "emphasized the importance of a thorough, transparent and timely investigation, including accountability for those responsible for the killing". Pompeo also noted that the United States sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals for their involvement in the killing, but the letter did not assess whether the crown prince was responsible.

"The Trump administration has blatantly turned a blind eye to this crime, and is now refusing to provide a required report about who is responsible for his murder, despite the fact that the CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi's killing," Senator Tim Kaine said on Sunday.

Pompeo defended the administration's response to the death of Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get a document he needed for his upcoming marriage and was never seen again.

"America has taken more action in response to the tragic murder of Jamal Khashoggi and will continue to take more action, continue our investigation," Pompeo told reporters in the Hungarian capital. "We are working diligently on that. The president has been very clear-couldn't be more clear-as we get additional information, we will continue to hold all of those responsible accountable."


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