Yemen, Iran, Khashoggi murder top Pompeo's talks in Saudi

Pompeo had a working lunch with King Hamad Crown Prince Salman and Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al Khalifa in Bahrain. — File

Pompeo's visit came as human rights groups have been calling on Saudi Arabia to provide independent worldwide monitors access to detained female prisoners amid mounting reports of torture and sexual harassment in Saudi prisons.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince in Riyadh on Monday, but will cut short the rest of his Middle East trip to attend a family funeral, a State Department spokesman said.

"We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring accountability", Pompeo said in Doha after talks with Qatari government officials. He would not comment on US intelligence suggesting the crown prince may have ordered the killing.

The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense following Khashoggi's brutal slaying and dismemberment at the consulate. But they have exonerated Prince Mohammed, whose right-hand aides were allegedly involved in the murder.

He added that Khashoggi's murder is unacceptable, and he will work to get new answers from the Saudis during his visit.

On the detained women rights activists, Pompeo said the Saudis had committed that the "lawful judicial process would take place and they would do so quickly and that they would continue down that path".

On a previous visit to Riyadh at the height of the Khashoggi affair, Pompeo's broad smiles with the crown prince outraged some Americans.

However, President Trump has said Washington wants to preserve the alliance with the kingdom, although the US Senate has clearly blamed Prince Mohammed for the murder.

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"I am struck by what is not included in Pompeo's itinerary: the courageous women activists of Saudi Arabia, who are being held in the kingdom's prisons for seeking rights and dignity", Alia al-Hathloul wrote in The New York Times Sunday.

During his visit to Qatar, Pompeo refused to comment on reports Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran.

Qatar - also a U.S. ally - denies the allegations and accuses the countries of seeking regime change.

In 2017, the so-called Arab Quartet - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt - severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, including imposing travel and trade bans, over Doha's alleged support for terrorism.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday an ongoing boycott of Qatar by four of America's allies in the Middle East "has dragged on too long", though he gave no sign of any coming breakthrough in the dispute. "When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful", he said at a press conference in Qatar, as he urged Gulf nations to end their boycott of Doha.

"But I believe that there is a path forward where there's a set of common understandings".

Attempts at mediation have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of United States envoy Anthony Zinni - who quit because of an apparent "lack of will" on behalf of "regional leaders" for regional reconciliation.

America has proposed a nine-country alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Jordan for security, economic and political cooperation.

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