18 September, 2019
TEHRAN: Iranian President says Riyadh should see attack as warning to end Yemen conflict, doesn’t address claims of Iranian involvement.
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated following drone attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
The pre-dawn attacks on Saturday knocked out more than half of crude output from the world’s top exporter – five percent of the global oil supply – and cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have been locked in a war with a Saudi-UAE-led coalition since 2015, claimed responsibility for the attacks, warning Saudi Arabia that their targets “will keep expanding”.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swiftly accused Iran of being behind the assault, without providing any evidence. The claim was rejected by Tehran which said the allegations were meant to justify actions against it.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has promised to “confront and deal with this terrorist aggression”, while US President Donald Trump hinted at possible military action after Riyadh concluded its investigation into the attacks.
Japan not aware of any Iranian involvement
Japan’s new defence minister said his country has not seen any intelligence showing Iranian involvement in the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities.
“We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Defence Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing. “We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility.”
Japan has maintained cordial ties with Iran even as relations between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated. Kono earlier said Japan cannot participate in any military retaliation because of constitutional restraints and would instead pursue a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.
France to send experts to probe attacks
President Emmanuel Macron said France, in response to a Saudi request, will send experts to probe the drone attacks on the Saudi Aramco facilities
In a statement, the Elysee Palace said the president strongly condemned the attack and assured Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that France was committed to stability in the Middle East.
“In response to a Saudi request, President Macron confirmed to the crown prince that France will send experts to Saudi Arabia to take part in investigations aimed at revealing the origin and modalities of the attacks,” it added.
Saudi Arabia to join US-led maritime coalition
Saudi Arabia said it would join a US-led coalition to secure the Middle East’s waterways after the attack on its oil fields.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement quoting an unnamed official saying that the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct, a mission already joined by Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom.
Washington formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that US officials blame on Iran over Iranian denials, as well as Tehran’s seizure of tankers operating in the region.
Oil prices drop as Riyadh says production will be restored
Oil prices extended their losses, after Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the kingdom will restore lost oil production by the end of the month.
But investors remained cautious about potential tension in the Middle East following the attacks.
Brent crude oil futures fell 36 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $64.19 a barrel by 00:05 GMT, after tumbling 6.5 percent the previous session.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 43 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $58.91 a barrel, after sinking by 5.7 percent on Tuesday. (Int’l News Desk)