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Pompeo Plans to Press Saudi Leaders Over Killing of Jamal Khashoggi

In a remarkable announcement in November, Mr. Trump said the United States was maintaining its warm relationship with Saudi Arabia, even if the crown prince may have “had knowledge of this tragic event.”

Mr. Trump has not spoken out about the Saudi-led coalition’s war against the Houthis in Yemen. Last month, in a rare move that amounted to a strong rebuke to the president, the Republican-led Senate voted 56 to 41 to end United States aid to the coalition. The Senate also passed a separate resolution blaming Prince Mohammed for Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Inside the White House, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and main Middle East adviser, has developed close ties to Prince Mohammed and has urged Mr. Trump to continue the relationship with Riyadh. And at the State Department, Mr. Pompeo has voiced his support for Mr. Trump’s approach.

Mr. Pompeo made an emergency visit to Riyadh after news of the Oct. 2 killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and photographs of him smiling in a meeting with Prince Mohammed fueled widespread criticism of his trip.

During Friday’s briefing, the State Department officials did not directly address Prince Mohammed’s culpability in the death of Mr. Khashoggi when asked. One official did say, however, that the removal of senior Saudi officials from posts did not amount to holding them responsible for the killing.

One of those Saudi officials was Saud al-Qahtani, a close ally of the crown prince who was removed from his post as the kingdom’s social media czar after Mr. Khashoggi was killed. Mr. Qahtani was not among those arrested in October in Saudi Arabia after the death became a diplomatic crisis.

The State Department official said Mr. Pompeo also planned to speak with Saudi officials about last month’s peace talks in Sweden that aimed to end the Yemen war. And he is expected to discuss the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, where the United States has a military base.

On Friday, a representative of the top United Nations human rights office told reporters in Geneva that the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia was “not sufficient.” The representative, Ravina Shamdasani, also said the United Nations office objected to the Saudi prosecutors seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects.


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