US President Donald Trump said Saturday he is "extremely angry" about the murder of a Saudi journalist but that nobody had "pointed a finger" at the kingdom's leader.
The comments came despite a recent UN expert report that judged it "inconceivable" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was unaware of the operation that assassinated Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, ndtv.com reported.
"I'm extremely angry and unhappy about a thing like that taking place" Trump said, when asked about whether he had raised the murder during talks with Prince Mohammed on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Japan's Osaka.
But "nobody so far has directly pointed a finger at the future king of Saudi Arabia," Trump added.
"They've taken it very seriously," the US leader insisted, referring to a trial that has been criticized for secrecy and is being conducted largely behind closed doors with even the names of the suspects unknown.
"They've been a terrific ally."
Despite the international uproar over the murder, Trump has maintained friendly ties with the crown prince, and showered him with praise during the meeting on Saturday.
There is "sufficient credible evidence" Saudi Arabia's crown prince bears responsibility for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and he should be investigated for it, a United Nations special rapporteur said in the first independent investigation into the death.
In a much-anticipated report, released Wednesday, UN investigator Agnes Callamard said that Saudi Arabia was responsible under international law for the "deliberate, premeditated execution" of Khashoggi and current sanctions on some senior officials do not go far enough, CNN reported.
Crown Prince bin Salman and his personal assets abroad should be hit by "targeted sanctions," the report recommends, "until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution."
A prominent writer and Washington Post columnist, Khashoggi died after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. While Riyadh initially denied any knowledge of the incident, Saudi officials later claimed that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi crown prince's inner circle, were responsible for the journalist's death.
The Saudi attorney general later acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder.
CNN has reached out to the Saudi government for a response to Wednesday's report.
The special rapporteur does not make any conclusions on the guilt of the Saudi crown prince and king. Instead, Callamard said that there is "credible evidence meriting further investigation by a proper authority" as to whether the "threshold of criminal responsibility has been met."
She goes on to say that Khashoggi was "fully aware of the powers held by the crown prince" and had expressed fears about what would happen to him if he returned to the kingdom.
Callamard also said that current international sanctions against some senior Saudi officials do not go far enough, failing to address the top of the kingdom's "chain of command."
These sanctions "fail to correspond to the gravity of the crime or to the fact that the state of Saudi Arabia is ultimately responsible for the violation of Mr. Khashoggi's right to life," she added.
Indeed Germany is the only Western government to suspend future arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the world's largest arms importer, the report said.
Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor King Salman knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials, however, have said such a mission – including 15 men sent from Riyadh – could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman.