Washington, Oct 13 (IANS) US President Donald Trump on Saturday warned that his administration would inflict "severe punishment" on Saudi Arabia if the kingdom was found to have played a part in the disappearance of dissident journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump made the remarks in an interview on the CBS show "60 Minutes". He said he would be "very upset and angry if that were the case", but ruled out halting big military contracts.
"... if true, the fact that a journalist was murdered was terrible and disgusting... We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment."
He said there were "other ways of punishing" than cancelling military contracts, which powers like Russia and China were interested in.
"I don't want to hurt jobs, I don't want to lose an order like that."
Saudi journalist Khashoggi -- a permanent resident of the US in self-imposed exile who penned a column in the Post and was a fierce critic of Riyadh's human rights violations and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies -- has been missing since he entered the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for paperwork needed for his planned marriage.
Turkish media widely reported that Khashoggi was feared by officials to have been murdered and dismembered inside the building by a Saudi hit squad, who may have removed the mutilated corpse in the consulate's diplomatic pouch, which is protected by international law from being searched by authorities.
Saudi Arabia dismissed allegations that it ordered his killing as "lies".
The kingdom's Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud Naif bin Abdulaziz condemned and dismissed reports that the journalist was murdered as "lies and baseless allegations", the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.
"There's a lot at stake," Trump said, adding that "maybe especially so because this man was a reporter."