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Trump Vows 'Severe Punishment' if Riyadh Behind Journalist's Disappearance

© REUTERS / Jonathan ErnstUS President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017.
US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. - Sputnik International
Saudi Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz has reportedly condemned claims circulating in media outlets about orders to kill missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the part of the authorities, saying they were lies and baseless allegations.

US President Donald Trump commented on the possibility of halting military sales to Saudi Arabia over the missing journalist case, saying that "there are other things" Washington can do to address the issue.

Earlier, in an interview with CBS, President Donald Trump pledged "to get to the bottom" of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, warning that if the Saudi authorities are behind all this, the US would inflict "severe punishment" on them.

"As of this moment, they deny it and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes," Trump said, adding that the matter was especially important "because this man was a reporter."

READ MORE: Turkey Accepts Saudi Aid to Probe Into Missing Journalist — Reports

He also said that Washington "would be very upset" if the Saudi authorities had murdered the journalist and that he does not want to hurt US jobs by stopping military sales to Saudi Arabia.

"I'll give you an example — they are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it, and we got all of it, every bit of it. […] I'll tell you what I don't want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, I don't want to hurt jobs. I don't want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing, to use a word that's a pretty harsh word, but it's true," Trump pointed out.

The remarks came after Trump told reporters that he will call Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud concerning the disappearance of Khashoggi, saying that it is a serious problem and that US officials are looking "very hard" to get answers.

READ MORE: US Senators Urge Trump to Explore Sanctions Against Saudi Arabia Over Khashoggi

Earlier, he signaled his unwillingness to support a move to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the disappearance of Khashoggi.

When asked whether he would consider halting arms sales to the kingdom, Trump said, "Not in favor of stopping a country from spending $110 billion, which is an all-time record and letting Russia have that money… There are other things we could do."

Earlier, Saudi Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz condemned media claims about orders to kill Khashoggi on the part of the authorities as lies and baseless allegations.

He praised Saudi-Turkey cooperation in the case, voicing Riyadh's commitment to finding out the truth about the disappearance of Khashoggi, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

READ MORE: US State Department Clueless About Saudi Journalist Khashoggi's Fate

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks on his cellphone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Khashoggi was a Saudi insider. He rubbed shoulders with the Saudi royal family and supported its efforts to nudge the entrenched ultraconservative clerics to accept reforms. He was a close aide to the kingdom’s former spy chief and was a leading voice in the country’s prominent dailies - Sputnik International
Journalist Disappearance Row: Companies, Media Pull Out of Saudi-Sponsored Event
His remarks came amid speculations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud had allegedly sought to bring Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia and detain him there. Moreover, Turkish media claimed that the journalist had ostensibly been killed in the Saudi embassy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, called for Riyadh to prove that they had nothing to do with the incident. According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Saudi Arabia has authorized Turkish officials to access the consulate building in relation to the disappearance.

Khashoggi, who had recently been working for The Washington Post, went missing in Turkey last week. According to his fiancee, Khashoggi was invited to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 but hasn't left the diplomatic mission's building since then.

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