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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Trump: US concerned about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance

In his first comments on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Donald Trump said on Monday that while he is “concerned”, no one knows anything about it.

Mr Trump answering questions from reporters said “I am concerned about it. I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out.”

“Right now nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it,” he added.

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Mr Trump’s position is in line with the State Department whose spokeswoman Heather Nauert reiterated on Monday that the United States is “not in a position to confirm these reports, but we are closely following the situation."

Following Mr Trump’s comments, vice president Mike Pence also tweeted asking for answers.

The situation started six weeks ago in Istanbul following a visit Mr Khashoggi made to the Saudi consulate to obtain marriage related documents.

The Saudi government has insisted that Mr Khashoggi left the building before disappearing but Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is asking Riyadh to prove its claim that he left the consulate.

Turkish authorities asked on Monday that Saudi Arabia search the consulate.

Saudi Arabia’s consul-general in Istanbul Mohammad Al Otaibi gave reporters a tour of the consulate to prove that the premises are clear and that the talk of kidnapping “is baseless.”

Mr Al Otaibi said: “I would like to confirm that Jamal is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him.”

On Friday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg that “while the premises are sovereign territory”, Saudi Arabia “will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do.”

“We have nothing to hide,” he said.

Mr Khashoggi, 59, worked for multiple Saudi media outlets before seeking exile in Washington last year, where he criticised some of the Saudi Crown Prince’s policies in a regular column in the Washington Post.