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September 20, 2019

Attacks on oil facilities: Pakistan, US stand behind Saudi Arabia

Top Story

September 20, 2019

JEDDAH/DUBAI/ISLAMABAD: The United States (US) and Pakistan on Thursday assured the Saudi leadership of their full support after drone attacks on its oil facilities blamed on Iran.

The assurances to the Saudi leadership came when Prime Minister Imran Khan and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo separately met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

The prime minister is on a two-day visit to the Kingdom. Upon arrival, he was received by Makkah Governor Khalid Al-Faisal Abdul Aziz. In the meeting with the Saudi crown prince, Imran condemned the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities.

He assured the Saudi crown prince that Pakistan fully supported the kingdom with all its capacities in confronting these sabotage acts. He also highlighted the Indian atrocities in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) following the revocation of the special status of the IOK by the Modi-led Indian government.

Both the leaders also discussed strengthening of economic relations between the two countries. Earlier, a statement from the PM House stated: "The prime minister has been in regular contact on the Kashmir issue with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," adding since the last visit of MBS in February earlier this year, "there is a growing momentum in Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations in all areas of cooperation".

Traditionally marked by warmth and mutual trust, PM Imran's visit to the Kingdom was expected to further reinforce the close fraternal Pakistan-Saudi relations "and deepen bilateral cooperation in diverse fields".

The prime minister was scheduled to leave for the United States after meeting with Crown Prince MBS. Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan Thursday said Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Saudi Arabia will prove to be another milestone in promotion of bilateral cooperation in various sectors.

In a series of tweets, she said the visit was a reflection of a trusted brotherly relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which would strengthen further. She said the prime minister would have detailed discussions with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) on the grave situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

Taking a brotherly Islamic country and a key OIC member into confidence (on the prevailing situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and its implications) is like making voice of the oppressed Kashmiris stronger, she added.

She said the OIC had openly expressed support for the Kashmiris and that the prime minister would present their case before the UN General Assembly with the same force. Dr Awan was of view that MBS’s visit to Pakistan had further improved historical bilateral relations. She said the people of Pakistan had great love and respect for the Saudi leadership.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the United States wanted a peaceful solution to the crisis sparked by attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Pompeo’s statement came after Iran raised the prospect of an "all-out war".

Pompeo has blamed Iran for the dramatic weekend assault on two facilities, condemning an "act of war" which knocked out half the kingdom´s oil production. The rhetoric has raised the risk of an unpredictable escalation in a tinderbox region where Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a decades-old struggle for dominance.

After meeting with allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Pompeo said there was an "enormous consensus in the region" that Iran carried out the attacks, despite its denials. But he said the US was intent on finding a way out of the confrontation.

"We´d like a peaceful resolution. I think we´ve demonstrated that. I hope the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way," he told reporters. Iran´s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier warned any US or Saudi military strike on Iran could cause "all-out war".

"We don´t want war, we don´t want to engage in a military confrontation," he told CNN in an interview aired Thursday. "But we won´t blink to defend our territory."

Pompeo arrived in Abu Dhabi from the Saudi city of Jeddah, where late Wednesday he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom´s de-facto ruler who has said the assault posed a "real test" of global will.

US military planners weighing retaliation have reportedly prepared a list of Iranian targets including the Abadan oil refinery, one of the world´s largest, and Khark Island, the country´s biggest crude export facility, the New York Times said.

Other potential targets include missile launch sites and other assets of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with bases near the Gulf, where unusual activity suggests they had a role in the strikes.

"Any strikes against Iran would almost certainly be carried out by volleys of cruise missiles from (US) Navy vessels. Strike aircraft would be aloft to carry out attacks if Iran retaliated against the first wave," the newspaper said.

Cinzia Bianco, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, warned of "an out-of-control chain of escalatory events." "Inside Saudi Arabia, there is uncertainty over the most appropriate course of action," she told AFP.

"However the dominant thinking there points to the US targeting critical infrastructure in Iran as to minimise or exclude any human cost." Late Wednesday, CBS News cited an unnamed US official saying Iran´s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved the attack, on condition it be carried out in a way that would allow Iran to deny involvement.

US officials it quoted said unreleased satellite photos showed Iran´s Revolutionary Guard Corps making preparations for the attack at Ahvaz airbase.

But the commander of Iran´s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said Thursday his country was "so powerful that they are forced to falsely accuse us" of being behind any incident.

An international inquiry is under way, with the United Nations saying Thursday experts had arrived in the kingdom and begun their mission "at the invitation of the Saudi authorities".