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Agencies
September 16, 2019

Iran rejects US charge it was behind Saudi oil attacks

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A
Agencies
September 16, 2019

TEHRAN: Iran has denied it was involved in Yemen rebel drone attacks targeting the world’s biggest oil processing facility and an oil field in Saudi Arabia.

The denial came just hours after America’s top diplomat alleged that Tehran was behind the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”. The attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels resulted in “the temporary suspension of production operations” at the Abqaiq processing facility and the Khurais oil field, Riyadh said.

That led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies, authorities said while pledging the kingdom’s stockpiles would make up the difference. While markets remained closed on Sunday, the attack could shock world energy prices. They also increased overall tensions in the region amid an escalating crisis between the US and Iran over Tehran’s unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

Late on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly blamed Iran for the attack on Twitter, without offering evidence to support his claim.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi dismissed Pompeo’s remarks as “blind and futile comments”. Mousavi said in a statement: “The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning towards ‘maximum lies.” First word of Saturday’s assault came in online videos of giant fires at the Abqaiq facility, some 205 miles north east of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Machine-gun fire could be heard in several clips alongside the day’s first call to prayers, suggesting security forces tried to bring down the drones just before dawn. In daylight, Saudi state television aired a segment with its local correspondent near a police checkpoint, a thick plume of smoke visible behind him.

President Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to offer his support for the kingdom’s defence, the White House said. The crown prince assured President Trump that Saudi Arabia is “willing and able to confront and deal with this terrorist aggression”, according to a news release from the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Saudi Aramco describes its Abqaiq oil processing facility in Buqyaq as “the largest crude oil stabilisation plant in the world”. The facility processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, then transports it onto transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production.

Separately, Baghdad has denied any link to drone attacks on Saudi oil plants, after media speculation that the strikes were launched from Iraq despite being claimed by Yemeni rebels Huthi.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that officials were investigating the possibility the attacks involved missiles launched from Iraq or Iran. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi denied reports Iraqi territory “was used for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities”.

He said in a statement: “Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbours. The Iraqi government will be extremely firm with whomever tries to violate the constitution.”

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