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The confab hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has seen a slew of its committed participants withdraw amid the ongoing controversy over the disappearance and apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that, during their recent conversation, the Saudi king firmly denied allegations that he or his crown prince had any knowledge of or role in the disappearance of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The president said the consequences for Saudi Arabia, if they are ultimately deemed culpable, "will have to be very severe".

"We are waiting for some investigations, and waiting for the results".

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced Thursday that he will not attend a previously scheduled Saudi investment conference.

"I don't want to speculate on my worst fears. And we're working towards that, we're looking forward to that", Pompeo told reporters.

The investigators left the residence around 1:30 am, but some of them headed to the nearby consulate to conduct a search, which was continuing into the early hours of Thursday.

Asked about the potential USA response to Saudi Arabia, which is accused of murdering the Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi regime, Trump said: "It will have to be very severe".

Trump, who has insisted that more facts must be known before making assumptions, did not say on what he based his latest statement about the writer's likely demise.

A United States government source said that United States intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced of the crown prince's culpability in the operation against Khashoggi, which they believe resulted in his death.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly one of several bidders vying for a stake in Denel, following government's intention to sell off a piece of the arms manufacturer.

In Istanbul, Turkish investigators for a second time searched the Saudi consulate, where Khashoggi vanished, in a hunt for clues. Khashoggi's disappearance sparked an global outcry, as allegations mounted that the Saudi government was behind it.

Cabinet ministers, federal officials and embassy staff will skip the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, which is sometimes referred to as "Davos in the Desert", a senior government insider said Thursday. Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and permanent US resident, entered the consulate but never came out.

Leading human rights and journalists' organisations have urged Turkey to ask the United Nations to launch an investigation into the disappearance and "possible extrajudicial execution" of Mr Khashoggi. "I know what I'm going to do and I'm going to sanction the hell out of Saudi".

Trump so far has resisted the call for strong action against Saudi Arabia.