US President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia's explanation on Jamal Khashoggi's death credible

Reuters Scottsdale, AZ, USA Oct 20, 2018, 06.52 AM(IST)

US President Donald Trump speaks from the Rose Garden of the White House. Photograph:( AFP )

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Speaking to reporters, Trump said Saudi Arabia's announcement on the circumstances of Khashoggi's death was a "good first step."

United States President Donald Trump said on Friday that Saudi Arabia's explanation for how journalist Jamal Khashoggi died at its consulate in Istanbul was credible.

Speaking to reporters, Trump said Saudi Arabia's announcement on the circumstances of Khashoggi's death was a "good first step." He also said he prefers that any sanctions against Riyadh not include cancelling big defence orders.

Meanwhile, the White House said on Friday it would press for justice after Saudi Arabia announced that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had died in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul and that 18 Saudis had been arrested in connection with his death.

"We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

"We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends," she added.

But members of Congress voiced scepticism about the Saudi public prosecutor's explanation that a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him when he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and that the altercation led to his death.

"To say that I am sceptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement," Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, said on Twitter. Graham, who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi's disappearance, is a close ally of President Donald Trump.

"First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince," Graham said.

"It’s hard to find this latest 'explanation' as credible," he added.