November 20, 2018 / 7:28 PM / 21 days ago

Secretary of state defends Trump's support of Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia in defiance of international pressure despite the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey last month.

Pompeo, who spoke following a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Washington, told a news conference that the United States was obligated to adopt policies that furthered U.S. national security interests.

“As the president said today, the United States will continue to have a relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Pompeo said.

“This is a long, historic commitment and one that is absolutely vital to Americans’ national security,” Pompeo said.

U.S. intelligence sources say the CIA’s assessment is that Khashoggi’s death was ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler. Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 where he went to collect documents for his planned marriage.

Asked if he had seen the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies about who ordered Khashoggi’s killing, Pompeo said he could not comment on intelligence matters.

“When America has the information it needs it will of course do the right thing to protect American interests and we have done so every time,” he said.

Trump said in a statement on Tuesday that the United States wanted to remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia despite saying the crown prince may have known about the plan to murder Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote for the Washington Post.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Susan Heavey; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Grant McCool

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