Riyadh has resisted Washington's pressure to take action against Saud al Qahtani over slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi as pictured on a book written by his fiancee Hatice Cengiz. February 8, 2019.
Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi as pictured on a book written by his fiancee Hatice Cengiz. February 8, 2019. (AFP)

The US is asking Saudi Arabia behind closed doors to hold a former top official implicated in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to account, according to a news report published by The Wall Street Journal.

Riyadh has so far resisted US pressure to take action against Saud al Qahtani over Khashoggi's October 2 slaying in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Journal reported, citing anonymous Saudi and American officials.

Al Qahtani previously served as the de facto right-hand man to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a post he has since been formally removed from even as he has continued to serve as an informal adviser to the royal court.

“We don’t see that Saud al Qahtani is very constrained in his activities,” an anonymous senior US Department of State official told the newspaper.

Al Qahtani was one of 17 Saudis sanctioned by the US in December over Khashoggi's killing. 

Turkey is also seeking his extradition.

Saudi officials confirmed to the Journal that despite being fired by Saudi King Salman, al Qahtani remains an informal adviser to Prince Mohammed.

Pressure to act

Pressure has continued on the US administration to hold Prince Mohammed personally responsible for Khashoggi's killing, but the White House has so far resisted.

Last Friday, President Donald Trump ignored a congressional deadline to publicly determine whether sanctions are warranted against bin Salman.

The Trump administration pushed back on Monday against allegations that it was trying to cover up the killing when it failed to send Congress a report determining who was responsible for his death.

"America is not covering up for a murder," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the US Embassy in Budapest.

Late last year, 22 Republican and Democrat members of the Senate called for an investigation into Khashoggi's death and specifically whether Prince Mohammed was responsible. The investigation was requested under provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Source: AA