Billionaire Branson halts talks on $1 billion Saudi investment in space ventures

Report Saudi journalist killed in Turkey

Report Saudi journalist killed in Turkey

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said Thursday he believes Jamal Khashoggi, a missing Saudi Arabian journalist and USA resident, has been killed and that the Saudi government is responsible.

Turkish officials contend that their mission was the premeditated killing of Khashoggi and that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

The Associated Press could not confirm that report, but a US -based friend of Khashoggi said the journalist had told him he had received a call from an adviser to the Saudi royal court in late May or early June urging him to return to his homeland.

The first plane of nine Saudis arrived from Riyadh around 3:30 a.m. that day, and included an individual described as a forensics official, according to the Sabah newspaper.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Tuesday that Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they were "open to co-operation" and would allow the consulate building to be searched. I don't like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States, because you know what they're going to do? He warned that the Saudis could instead buy from Russian Federation or China.

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee who's chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he'd raised the issue with the Saudi ambassador. "There will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels".

The case is also threatening the strong relationship the Trump administration has built with Prince Mohammed, who wants to turn the oil-rich conservative kingdom into a hub for innovation and reform. Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, have already questioned USA support for Saudi's involvement in Yemen's civil war, which has prompted a humanitarian crisis.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the Senate's most vocal critics of the Saudi regime, said he was looking at other steps Congress could take - including cutting off US funding for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. There is also an informal process in which key lawmakers can put "holds" on arm sales.

Adding to the pressure, a report published Thursday in The Washington Post said that US officials have collected intelligence indicating that Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, authorized an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and detain him.

Kaine and several other Senate Democrats said they would try to block billions of dollars in US arms sales to America's Middle Eastern ally.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the Saudi ambassador to the USA was travelling to Saudi Arabia, and that the US expects him to provide information about the Khashoggi case when he returns. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to reassure its Western allies and the global community. "Virgin will also suspend its discussions with the Public Investment Fund over the proposed investment in our space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit".

In a sign of the backlash, the New York Times said Wednesday that it was pulling its sponsorship of an investment conference scheduled for this month in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. "What happened is a awful thing, assuming that happened".

However, three USA law enforcement sources said that because Khashoggi is not an American citizen and disappeared outside the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has no automatic jurisdiction to get involved in the case and could only become involved if requested by a foreign government such as Turkey.

President Donald Trump and his top advisers have cultivated a close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Trump has touted the Saudi Arabian government's promise to buy "lots of lovely military equipment" from the U.S. These leaks, largely matching across Turkey's state-run media and private Erdogan-linked outlets, likely come from the country's security services as another means to pressure the kingdom over Khashoggi's October 2 disappearance. "It's not possible for us to stay silent regarding an incident like this", Erdogan said. Some have been incredulous at its denials of wrongdoing and contention it has no recorded video footage from the consulate showing Khashoggi, who had been living in self-exile in Virginia for the past year.