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Republican lawmaker Marco Rubio urges US boycott of Saudi investment conference

Rubio urged the US not to attend a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia. [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 October, 2018

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The US can't continue 'business as usual' with Riyadh until missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fate has been determined, Republican senator Marco Rubio said.

Republican senator Marco Rubio on Sunday urged the United States not to attend a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia later this month, saying the US can't continue "business as usual" with Riyadh until missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fate has been determined.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has strongly denied this but has failed to explain the journalist's fate after entering its consulate building.

Media giants and business heavyweights have decided to boycott a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia – dubbed "Davos in the Desert" – following the Saudi journalist's disappearance.

"I don't think he should go," Rubio told CNN, referring to US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

"I don't think any of our government officials should be going and pretending as it's business as usual until we know exactly what's happened here."

Diplomatic sources told the BBC on Sunday that both Mnuchin and the UK's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox may consider boycotting the event.

Rubio told CNN that there would be a "very strong congressional response" if Saudi Arabia was proven to have lured Khashoggi into the consulate and "murdered him, cut up his body and disposed of it".

US President Donald Trump on Saturday vowed there would be "severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia had killed Khashoggi but cautioned against halting arms deals, warning it would negatively impact the US economy.

Rubio said arms deals with Riyadh could provide leverage in responding to the situation, but should not deter potential punishment.

"There's not enough money in the world to buy back our credibility on human rights if we do not move forward and take swift action," Rubio told CBS.

Jamal Khashoggi is one of the Arab world's best-known journalists, having fled Saudi Arabia following Mohammed bin Salman's clampdown on perceived critics.

He moved to the US and has been a contributor to The Washington Post.

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