Top Republican senator blames Saudi prince for Khashoggi death


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading Republican U.S. senator said on Sunday he believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that the Saudis have lost all credibility in their explanations.

"Do I think he did it? Yes, I think he did it," Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union."

Corker said he was waiting for investigations to be completed and hoped that Turkey would share any audio tapes of the killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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However, he made clear he believed the Crown Prince Mohammed directed the murder.

"Let's let this play out but my guess is that at the end of the day the United States and the rest of the world will believe fully that he did it," Corker said.

"Obviously if he's gone forth and murdered this journalist, he's now crossed the line, and there has to be a punishment and a price to pay for that."

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump joined European leaders in pushing Saudi Arabia for more answers after Riyadh changed its story and acknowledged that the journalist died on Oct. 2 at its consulate in Istanbul.

The Saudis, Corker said, have lost all credibility after their shifting explanations for what happened after Khashoggi walked into their consulate.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican, told CNN: "The Saudis have got a lot of explaining to do. I think everything should be on the table."

The United States could impose sanctions on the Crown Prince if he was found culpable in the killing but there should also be a collective response with European allies who are looking to Washington for leadership, given that many sell arms and do business with Saudi Arabia, he said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)