U.S. cautious over Khashoggi as new claims emerge

US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House. —AFP

Trump's remarks came after he was briefed on the investigation by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Turkish police on Wednesday began searching the residence of the Saudi consul in Istanbul for their investigation, with forensics experts in white overalls entering the building, an AFP correspondent said.

He had been living in the U.S. after criticising Saudi's authoritarian rulers and was writing for the Washington Post.

"It certainly looks that way to me".

Mr Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, where Turkish officials allege he was killed.

They were seen leaving the consulate carrying large boxes.

"Well, it'll have to be very severe. It's bad, bad stuff".

Pompeo declined to comment on what the USA believes might have happened to Khashoggi but made clear Washington takes the situation "very seriously".

While Turkish officials have accused Saudi Arabia of the murder in Istanbul of Khashoggi, a US-based writer who has been critical of Saudi leaders, Trump has cautioned against a rush to judgment against an important Mideast ally. "We join our partners in calling for a thorough investigation and accountability for this act". He said last week that it would be a "tough pill to swallow" to cease the sales over Khashoggi, contending that such a move would hurt the USA economy.

Earlier on Thursday, Pompeo said he told Trump that the United States should give the Saudis "a few more days" to complete their investigation into Khashoggi's case "so we can get a complete understanding" of the facts.

Trump, it added, had "signaled that he is more than ready to assist in that dodge".

But the issue of Khashoggi's fate is "gathering momentum", Charbonneau said, "and we hope that the momentum will be such that Turkey will not be able to say no, and will actually have to step forward ... and that the Saudis will be under so much pressure that they will have to cooperate" with a United Nations investigation. "He has not heard a tape", spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The diplomatic crisis has deepened in recent days and more details have emerged surrounding Khashoggi's disappearance. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said the kingdom should be given more time to investigate before the U.S. lays any blame or considers action.

Answering a question on what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: "Well, it'll have to be very severe".

The Saudis have so far denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance.

House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said the reported death of Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi officials is appalling, as is the Trump Administration's failure to hold the government of Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions.

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