Republican senators urge Trump to suspend nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia

Politics

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) speaks to reporters about legislation to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism at the Capitol, as fallout continued over U.S. President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2018. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of Republican senators asked U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday to suspend civilian nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi actions in Yemen and Lebanon.

The five U.S. lawmakers, led by Senator Marco Rubio, said they would use the Atomic Energy Act to block any U.S.-Saudi nuclear agreements if Trump did not cut off talks.

“The ongoing revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decision makers in Saudi Arabia,” the senators wrote.

“We therefore request that you suspend any related negotiations for a U.S.-Saudi civil nuclear agreement for the foreseeable future,” said the lawmakers, who included senators Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, Dean Heller and Todd Young.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, which was first reported by NBC News.

Khashoggi, a leading critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The death of the Washington Post columnist, a U.S. resident who had American children, sparked global outrage and pitched the world’s top oil exporter into crisis.

The United States has called for transparency in the investigation of Khashoggi’s death and revoked the U.S. visas of some Saudis over the incident. Trump has said Prince Mohammed bore ultimate responsibility for what happened to Khashoggi but has also cited Riyadh as a strong ally.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday called for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen and urged the start of U.N.-led negotiations to end the civil war next month.

Saudi Arabia’s official comments on Khashoggi’s death have shifted from initially denying any involvement to saying the killing was premeditated. Both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are investigating Khashoggi’s death.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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