Monday, September 16, 2019

Evidence points to Iran weapons used in Saudi strike, says alliance, as oil jumps




Rania El Gamal, 
Aziz El Yaakoubi

DUBAI (Reuters) - An attack on Saudi Arabia that triggered the biggest jump in oil prices in almost 30 years was carried out with Iranian weapons, a Saudi-led coalition said on Monday, as President Donald Trump said Washington was “locked and loaded” to hit back.

The Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls Yemen’s capital claimed responsibility for the attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.

Iran denied U.S. accusations it was to blame and said it was ready for “full-fledged war”.

A Saudi-led military alliance battling the Houthis said the attack on Saudi oil plants was done with Iranian weapons and was not launched from Yemen, according to preliminary findings.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said that an investigation into Saturday’s strikes, which shut 5% of world crude output, was going on to determine the launch location.

“The preliminary results show that the weapons are Iranian and we are currently working to determine the location ... The terrorist attack did not originate from Yemen as the Houthi militia claimed,” Malki told a press conference in Riyadh.

U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Monday it was “not entirely clear” who was behind the strike but he said it had increased the chances of a regional conflict.

But U.S. Ambassador to the world body, Kelly Craft, told the Council that emerging information on the attacks “indicates that responsibility lies with Iran” and that there is no evidence the attack came from Yemen.

Iran has dismissed as “unacceptable” U.S. accusations that Tehran was responsible.

Oil prices surged by as much as 19% before coming off their peaks. The intraday jump was the biggest since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Prices eased after Trump announced that he would release U.S. emergency supplies and producers said there were enough stocks stored up worldwide to make up for the shortfall. But traders still spoke of a long-term price increase as markets absorb the proof that global supply can be so sharply hit.


“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 said on Twitter on Sunday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry pinned the blame squarely on Iran for “an attack on the global economy and the global energy market”.

“The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same,” he said in a speech to an annual meeting in Vienna of the U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA. He added that he was confident the oil market “is resilient and will respond positively”.

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