IMF chief defers Middle East trip with Saudi stop

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde talks during a trade conference at the 2018 International Monetary Fund World Bank Group Annual Meeting at Nusa Dua in Bali Province, Indonesia, on Oct 10, 2018.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde talks during a trade conference at the 2018 International Monetary Fund World Bank Group Annual Meeting at Nusa Dua in Bali Province, Indonesia, on Oct 10, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has postponed a planned trip to the Middle East with a stop in Saudi Arabia for an investment conference, after a prominent journalist's disappearance.

"The managing director's previously scheduled trip to the Middle East region is being deferred," an IMF spokesman said in a statement, without further explanation. Ms Lagarde was set to attend the kingdom's Future Investment Initiative conference boycotted by global business and media leaders since the suspected death of Mr Jamal Khashoggi, last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.

Last Saturday, during the IMF's annual meetings in Bali, Ms Lagarde said she would travel to Riyadh for the gathering next week. "Human rights, freedom of information are essential rights and horrifying things have been reported and I am horrified," she told reporters at the time. "But I have to conduct the business of the IMF in all corners in the world and with many governments."

But there have since been growing accusations against top levels of the conservative kingdom over the Khashoggi case, triggering a diplomatic crisis. The Turkish authorities say the journalist was killed in the Saudi consulate but Riyadh insists Mr Khashoggi disappeared after leaving the consulate.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2018, with the headline 'IMF chief defers Middle East trip with Saudi stop'. Print Edition | Subscribe