While US officials said Saudi Arabia needs more time to probe the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said the journalist is likely dead. Turkish police have expanded their search for Khashoggi's possible remains.
US President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday it "certainly looks" as though Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead.
Trump said consequences "will have to be very severe" if the Saudis were found to be responsible for his death, but he also added that it was still "a little bit early" to draw a conclusion about who may have been behind Khashoggi's suspected murder.
The president's remarks came shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would wait for the Saudis to complete an investigation into what happened to Khashoggi before deciding how to respond.
Meanwhile, unnamed Turkish officials said Khashoggi's body may have been disposed of in a nearby forest or on farmland.
Police are now searching a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul, and a city near the Sea of Marmara.
"The investigations led to some suspicion that his remains may be in the city of Yalova and the Belgrad forest; police have been searching these areas," a government official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.
A "farm house or villa" may have been used for the disposal of Khashoggi's remains, the official added.
Ministers dropping Saudi conference
US Treasury Secretary Seven Mnuchin announced that he would not be attending an investment conference in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier on Thursday, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox both said they would not be attending the October 23-25 conference.
On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was postponing a planned trip to Saudi Arabia pending the outcome of the investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance, calling the case "extremely worrying ... and disturbing."
Meanwhile, Sigmar Gabriel, Maas' predecessor, urged German authorities to take a clear line with Riyadh on Khashoggi's alleged murder.
"The West, especially Europe, must not look away for fear of diplomatic or economic consequences," Gabriel told the Bild newspaper. "We are not weak," he added.
As foreign minister, Gabriel had accused Saudi Arabia of engaging in "political adventurism" in the Middle East.
"A politically motivated murder, however, would be far more than adventurism," Gabriel said. "The Germans know this kind of violence from the darkest times during the Cold War, when the GDR (German Democratic Republic) did not shy away from kidnapping and murder," he added, refering to the former communist East Germany.
It is devastating that "Saudi Arabia feels so secure as a result of the support from US President Donald Trump…" Gabriel said.
Business leaders, media giants boycott summit
Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative, dubbed "Davos in the Desert," will be missing numerous major players after several world leaders and top business executives have decided not to attend.
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as well as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, will not be attending.
The heads of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Ford and other multinational companies have also pulled out, while several media companies have pulled their sponsorship, including CNN, The New York Times, CNBC, The Economist and Financial Times.
Khashoggi disappeared on October 2 after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, sparking international outcry and concern.
Numerous media reports citing Turkish officials state that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents in the consulate and that his body was dismembered. Saudi officials deny any involvement in his disappearance.
Turkish officials have yet to release any evidence in the case, although forensic teams have searched both the consulate and the Saudi consul general's residence.
Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post, was a strong critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
shs, rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)