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    People hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington.

    Pompeo: US Has No Direct Evidence Connecting Saudi Prince to Khashoggi Case

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States has not seen any direct intelligence that would connect the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

    'I've read every piece of intelligence … There is no direct reporting connecting Prince to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi', Pompeo told journalists after briefing the US Senate on Saudi Arabia.

    Commenting on the issue in his official blog, the US Secretary of State wrote that the United States would consider imposing additional sanctions against Saudi Arabia if new facts on the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi emerge.

    'The Trump administration will consider further punitive measures if more facts about Khashoggi’s murder come to light'," Pompeo said.

    The blog was released prior to Pompeo's closed-door testimony to the Senate on US-Saudi Arabia relations.

    Pompeo noted that the United States continues to denounce Khashoggi’s murder as inconsistent with American values, and recalled that the Treasury Department had already sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals who are believed to be involved in the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

    READ MORE: Khashoggi Murder: 'It's Question of Policy Rather Than Who's Responsible' — Prof

    However, the Secretary of State said the United States has no intention to downgrade its partnership with Saudi Arabia as it has been a strong US partner in the effort to combat alleged Iran's malign activity and fight terrorism.

    'Unfortunately, some members of Congress have held billions of dollars of defence sales to our Gulf partners for many months beyond the informal review period, which impedes our national security imperatives and calls into question our reliability as a partner', Pompeo said.

    Several US lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders have sponsored legislation to suspend arms sales to Riyadh in response to mounting civilian casualties in Yemen. Others have called for a firm US response to the Khashoggi killing, which several lawmakers have claimed was likely to be directed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    READ MORE: Turkish FM Claims Saudi Suspect in Khashoggi Killing 'Likes to Cut Up People'

    Pompeo also said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is alleged to have orchestrated Khashoggi's killing, has moved Saudi Arabia in "a reformist direction" and made steps toward promoting democratic freedoms.

    The Secretary of State announced that the United States is allocating almost $131 million in food assistance to Yemen amid calls to withdraw support for Saudi Arabia's military operations in the country.

    'The US is pleased to announce it is providing nearly $131 million in additional food assistance for Yemen, bringing total humanitarian aid to more than $697 million over the past 14 months', Pompeo said.

    The money is being directed to the World Food Program and other organizations working to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen, he said, adding that the administration of President Donald Trump has taken many measures to reduce people's suffering in the area of conflict.

    A similar stance has been voiced by US Defense Secretary James Mattis on the same day in his speech in front of Senators, according to the prepared remarks. As the defence official noted, the United States would be making an unwise move if it were to reduce or halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia before Yemen's peace talks get underway.

    'Pulling back our limited US military support, our weapons sales to our partners and our protection of the Saudi and Emirati populations would be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations', Mattis said. 'It took us too long to get here, but at this key juncture, a change in our approach would work against [UN Special Envoy] Martin [Griffiths]'s efforts by breathing new life into the Houthis' combat operations, just when they are reluctantly engaging with the UN interlocutor'.

    READ MORE: Saudi Crown Prince Met With Protests in Tunisia Over Khashoggi Killing

    Tags:
    investigation, sanctions, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jamal Khashoggi, United States, Saudi Arabia
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