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Trump on Saudis: 'Worst coverup ever'.

Byline: Kareem Fahim, Tamer El-Ghobashy, John Hudson and Chico Harlan The Washington Post

ISTANBUL -- President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Saudi officials had engaged in the "worst coverup ever" after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this month, as the administration took its first concrete step to penalize Saudi Arabia, revoking visas for its agents implicated in the killing.

That initial penalty was modest, since 18 of the 21 Saudi suspects were already under arrest, and Trump said he would "leave it up to Congress" to determine how best to punish the kingdom for the killing inside its Istanbul consulate.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Tuesday labeled the killing "planned" and "brutal" and called on Saudi Arabia to extradite the detained suspects to Turkey to face justice. Erdogan's highly anticipated comments, during a speech to his ruling party in the capital Ankara, contradicted Saudi accounts that Khashoggi was killed when an argument inside the consulate escalated into a fistfight.

The Turkish leader did not directly accuse the Saudi leadership of involvement in the killing but strongly indicated that the Saudi investigation had not reached high enough into the kingdom's ruling circles.

"It will not satisfy the public by just pinning this kind of matter on a few security and intelligence officers," he said. "Covering up this kind of savagery will hurt the conscience of all humanity."

Providing several new details, Erdogan described an operation in which Saudi agents removed the hard disk on a consulate camera and one team visited wooded areas in and around Istanbul "for reconnaissance" before the killing. These were areas that Turkish police later focused on as they searched for Khashoggi's body.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump skewered the Saudis, saying, "They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly, and the coverup was the worst in the history of coverups." He added, "In terms of what we ultimately do, I'm going to leave it very much -- in conjunction with me -- I'm going to leave it up to Congress."

The State Department said the visa penalties would affect 21 Saudis. Most already have visas, and their documents are being revoked. Some who do not have visas are now ineligible for them, officials said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced the action, said he is also working with the Treasury Department on whether to impose sanctions on those responsible for the journalist's death.

"These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States," Pompeo said during a briefing at the State Department. "We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable."

The killing of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government and contributing columnist for The Washington Post, has provoked international outrage over Saudi Arabia's conduct and raised urgent questions about whether the kingdom's crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, was involved in the plot.

Mohammed on Tuesday received a standing ovation when he appeared at a major investment conference in Riyadh -- which some Western executives and leaders have withdrawn from because of the controversy -- but the crown prince did not address the crowd.

Separately on Tuesday, the official Saudi Press Agency published photos of the Saudi monarch, King Salman, and the crown prince meeting two members of Khashoggi's family, including his son.

One photo showed the son, Salah, looking ashen-faced and shaking hands with Mohammed as a video cameraman stood in the background. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter that the leaders shared "their deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of Jamal Khashoggi, may God rest his soul."
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Title Annotation:World_
Author:Fahim, By Kareem; El-Ghobashy, Tamer; Hudson, John; Post, Chico Harlan The Washington
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:7SAUD
Date:Oct 24, 2018
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