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AFP
September 17, 2019

Weapons used in Saudi attacks ‘came from Iran’: coalition

Top Story

AFP
September 17, 2019

LONDON: The weapons used to strike two Saudi oil plants were provided by the kingdom’s arch-foe Iran, the Riyadh-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Monday.

"The investigation is continuing and all indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran," coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh, adding they were now probing "from where they were fired".

The Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, where a coalition is bogged down in a five-year war, claimed Saturday’s strikes on two facilities owned by state energy giant Aramco which sent shock waves across oil markets.

"This strike didn’t come from Yemen territory as the Huthi militia are pretending," Maliki said, adding that an investigation was ongoing into the attacks and their origins. He labelled the Huthis "a tool in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the terrorist regime of Iran".

Meanwhile, oil prices made their biggest jump since the Gulf War on Monday after President Donald Trump warned that the US was "locked and loaded" to respond to attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure that Washington blamed on Iran.

It is the first time the president has hinted at a potential American military response to the drone attacks, which slashed Saudi oil production by half and led both the kingdom and the United States to announce they may tap their strategic reserves.

"There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!" Trump tweeted.

Russia on Monday called on "all countries to avoid hasty steps or conclusions that could exacerbate the situation" while the European Union stressed all sides should show "maximum restraint".

China also urged the US and Iran to "exercise restraint in the absence of a conclusive investigation or verdict." The Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is bogged down in a five-year war, claimed Saturday’s strikes on two plants owned by state energy giant Aramco.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed the finger squarely at Tehran, saying there was no evidence the "unprecedented attack on the world´s energy supply" was launched from Yemen.

"The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression," the top US diplomat said.

That drew an angry response from Tehran, where foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: "Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless."

The White House said on Sunday that Trump may still meet Iran President Hassan Rouhani at the UN meeting in New York next week, but Tehran said Monday it did not think "such a thing would happen". Baghdad, caught between its two main allies -- Tehran and Washington -- also denied any link to the attacks amid media speculation that the drones were launched from Iraq.

Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the kingdom is "willing and able" to respond to this "terrorist aggression." But a tit-for-tat strike on Iranian oil fields is "highly unlikely," Middle East expert James Dorsey said. "The Saudis do not want an open conflict with Iran. The Saudis would like others to fight that war, and the others are reluctant," said Dorsey, from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"The genie is out of the bottle," said Bill Farren-Price, director of the London-based RS Energy Group. "It is now clear that Saudi and other Gulf oil facilities are vulnerable to this kind of attack, which means that the geopolitical risk premium for oil needs to rise." No casualties were reported but the full extent of the damage was not clear.

Trump tweeted that he had "authorised the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount" that is "sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied."

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