US President Donald Trump said Saturday that he had no plans to extradite Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Ankara of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup attempt.
NBC reported this week that the White House was studying the legal ramifications of expelling the cleric, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, as part of an effort to persuade Turkey to ease its pressure on Saudi Arabia over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"It's not under consideration," Trump told reporters shortly before departing on a daylong trip to California to meet with officials and victims, as well as firefighters battling the deadly wildfires there.
"We are doing very well with Turkey," Trump said. "I get along very well with the president (Recep Tayyip Erdogan). He's a friend of mine. He's a strong man, a tough man and a smart man, so whatever we can do, we'll do... but at this point? No."
US-Turkish relations have recently been strained, but they warmed up after Ankara's release in October of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
The fate of Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the attempted coup in Turkey and whom Washington has repeatedly refused to extradite, remains a central point of tension between the countries.
Gulen's teachings inspired the growth of a moderate, pro-Western Islamic movement that includes scores of schools, hospitals and businesses worldwide.
He left Turkey for the US in the 1990s after being accused of calling for the overthrow of the government.
He has denied the charges, and lives with supporters in a rural compound in northeastern Pennsylvania.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert had earlier rejected the NBC report that the White House was seeking a way to extradite Gulen, who reportedly has a US green card.
She insisted that "there is no relation" between the extradition issue and Turkish pressure on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi's murder at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
Trump has been restrained in his criticism of the Saudis, saying on Saturday that "they give us a lot of jobs, economic development (and have been) a truly spectacular ally."