Saudi Arabia ‘to ADMIT missing journalist killed’ in consulate interrogation

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The Kingdom has called the allegations of foul play "baseless" but has offered no evidence the writer left the consulate.

The Journal, like CNN, said the Saudi statement has not been finalised. Noticeably absent from discussions was the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, about whom Khashoggi wrote critically for the Washington Post and whose rise to power prompted the writer to go into a self-imposed exile in the US.

Turkish officials had speculated that the Saudi government would blame "rogue" elements of its security services as a way of insulating Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, from worldwide criticism.

Trump suggested on Monday that "rogue killers" could be to blame for Khashoggi's disappearance - an apparent row back from earlier threats of "severe punishment" against the Saudi government if it turned out Khashoggi was murdered.

The search team did not appear to be carrying equipment and it was not clear whether they would carry out a forensic investigation. "The President should be leading that effort and standing up for human rights", Senator Mark Warner said.

King Salman ordered the public prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi case.

The opening of the probe and the consulate search marked a new flurry of activity on the Saudi side, after two weeks in which Riyadh has done little except deny responsibility. Turkish television channels have previously shown footage of a large vehicle leaving the consulate two hours after Khashoggi vanished and parking at the consul's residence.

Turkey had wanted to search the consulate for days.

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But last night things began to shift.

Members of the U.S. congress - both Democrat and Republican - could vote to block arms sales to Riyadh, and the White House would be under pressure to punish Saudi individuals if they were proven to have played a role in Khashoggi's disappearance.

Earlier, the joint Saudi-Turkish working group conducted a nine-hour inspection of the Saudi Consulate building, during which the police reportedly obtained some evidence relevant to the Khashoggi case proving that the journalist never left the building.

Mr Khashoggi had been a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabia ruling royal family. Those policies are all seen as initiatives of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman, who is next in line to the throne.

Prince Mohammed, 33, a son of King Salman, consolidated his control in June 2017 when he was named Crown Prince to replace his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, who was sacked.

Prince Mohammed has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, KKR executive David Petraeus and Ford Motor Chairman Bill Ford have also said that they will not attend the Saudi event.

Meanwhile, the chiefs of Blackstone and BlackRock, two major U.S. investment firms, joined an exodus of executives pulling out of Crown Prince's "Davos in the Desert" summit.

Trump's warning drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The US president has been pressing King Salman and Opec to boost production for weeks to drive down high crude oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran after the US withdrawal from that's country's nuclear deal with world powers.