OSAKA: US President Donald Trump praised Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday (Jun 29), saying he was doing a "spectacular job", despite international outcry over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The young royal has faced international pressure after US-based writer was killed and dismembered in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last year.
"You have done a spectacular job," Trump told the powerful crown prince as the pair met on the sidelines of the G20 summit, referring to him as "a friend of mine".
In a readout provided after the talks, the White House said the pair discussed "the importance of human rights issues", among other subjects, but gave no further details.
'EXTREMELY ANGRY, UNHAPPY'
When asked about whether he had raised the murder of Khashoggi, Trump said: "I'm extremely angry and unhappy about a thing like that taking place."
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 criticised for secrecy and is being conducted largely behind closed doors with even the names of the suspects unknown.
"They've been a terrific ally."
Riyadh has hit back against claims that Prince Mohammed bears responsibility in the murder of Khashoggi, who was killed in what Saudi authorities have described as a rogue operation.
A UN expert report has said that the "execution of Mr Khashoggi was the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia", and that Prince Mohammed must have been aware of attempts to cover up the crime, including a forensic cleaning of the consulate.
The report urged a formal criminal investigation into the case.
But Saudi prosecutors say all those to blame are already on trial, citing proceedings against 11 unnamed individuals in the kingdom.
Five of those face the death penalty in the trial, which has been held secretly, with only a handful of diplomats allowed to attend.
But Trump was effusive in his praise of Prince Mohammed, who has moved to loosen some social restrictions in the kingdom but also cracked down on activists, including women pressing for the right to drive.
"It's an honour to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia... a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia," Trump said.
"It's like a revolution in a very positive way."