Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is greeted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in March 2018 Picture PA
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Britain Urged To Halt Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia After Killing Of Journalist

Saudi Arabia is the UK's key ally in the region and also a significant trading partner.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is greeted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in March 2018 Picture PA

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was greeted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in March 2018 (Picture: PA)

Theresa May is under pressure to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the Gulf kingdom admitted that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at its Istanbul consulate.

Saudi state television reported on Friday night that a primary investigation into the Washington Post columnist's disappearance found he died after a fight broke out in the consulate in Turkey.

This is the first time the kingdom has admitted Mr Khashoggi is dead.

It follows two weeks of denials that Saudi Arabia had any involvement in the journalist's disappearance.

But the explanation about Mr Khashoggi's death has been met with widespread scepticism and the Prime Minister has been urged to now put arms trading with the kingdom on hold.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is considering the "next steps" in Britain's response to the case, officials said.

Mr Hunt has previously warned there will be "consequences" for the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia if it was found the journalist was murdered.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we would do certainly at the moment, and I think the Government should do this, is to suspend all arms sales to the kingdom."

Mr Gardiner acknowledged there were a "lot of jobs" in the UK linked to the defence trade but said, "this is about who we are as a country."

He added:

"We have a thriving defence industry and, of course, this would be a hit to that industry."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the case gets "murkier and murkier".

He added: "The Government should have already suspended arms export licences to Saudi Arabia given the outrages in Yemen. This reinforces the argument for loosening the bonds to the regime."

US President Donald Trump said he found the Saudi explanation credible and it was a "very important first step".

A number of Saudi nationals have been arrested and deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to the Crown Prince, have been dismissed, state TV reported.

Turkish government sources have alleged that Mr Khashoggi, a critic of the Prince and the Saudi government, was tortured and murdered by a hit squad flown in from Riyadh.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps."