Iran denies U.S. claim it was behind oil attack in Saudi Arabia


Iran on Sunday denied accusations by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it was responsible for a drone attack on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo's insinuations were absurd and inexplicable and therefore of no effect, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the ISNA news agency.

The attack on Saturday, which caused fires at two facilities operated by Saudi state oil giant Aramco in the eastern province of Buqyaq, was claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, has been locked in a devastating power struggle between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government since late 2014 when the rebels took over the capital Sana'a and other areas.

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015, when it was formed to counter advances by the Iran-allied rebels towards the Yemeni government's temporary seat in Aden. However, Pompeo disputed the Houthis' claim of responsibility.

"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," Pompeo said in a tweet. "There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen."

Mousavi on Sunday claimed that the attack was a response by Yemeni rebels to war crimes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. "Because the U.S. policy of maximum pressure on Iran has failed, the Americans have now switched to maximum lies," he added.

Even in times of extreme hostility, politicians' statements should have "a minimum credibility," he said, concluding that the accusation showed the U.S. and Iran were pursuing "very different goals."

In Baghdad, Iraq has denied reports that its territory was used in the attack.

"Iraq is constitutionally committed to not allowing the use of its lands in aggression on its neighbours," the office of Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi said on Twitter on Sunday. It added that the Iraqi government will deal "decisively" with anyone who attempts to violate the constitution in this regard.

It also called on all parties to the Yemeni conflict to end attacks.

Saudi Arabia - the world's top oil exporter - saw production cut by 5.7 million barrels a day after the attacks on the plants in Abqaiq and Khurais, the state-owned oil company Aramco said.

The country's total production hovers around 10 million barrels per day, with an average of 9.85 million barrels per day in August, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Sunday that it foresaw no supply problems as a result of the attacks.

"We are in contact with the Saudi authorities as well as major producer and consumer nations. For now, markets are well supplied with ample commercial stocks," it said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said late on Sunday that he has approved the release of resources from the United States' strategic petroleum reserve "if needed" after weekend attacks on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

"Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorised the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"I have also informed all appropriate agencies to expedite approvals of the oil pipelines currently in the permitting process in Texas and various other States."

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry had earlier said the Trump administration was prepared to tap the country's emergency oil reserves if the Saudi capacity issue begins to have an effect.

In Brussels, an EU foreign policy spokesperson said the attack on the oil facilities "poses a real threat to regional security" and called for dialogue.

"It is important to clearly establish the facts and determine responsibility for this deplorable attack," the spokesperson added in a statement, calling for "maximum restraint and de-escalation."    (dpa)

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