UK, US discuss need for united diplomatic response to Saudi attack
Britain's PM Boris Johnson, US President Trump discuss united action against Saudi attacks. AP file photo
Reuters, London :
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump condemned last weekend's attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and discussed the need for a united diplomatic response in a telephone call on Wednesday, Mr Johnson's office said.
"They condemned the attacks and discussed the need for a united diplomatic response from international partners," a statement said. "They also spoke about Iran and agreed that they must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon."
A White House spokesman said in a statement the two leaders "reaffirmed the value of the special relationship in addressing shared security concerns, most notably Iran's destabilizing behavior".
Meanwhile, Iran warned the United States that it would broadly retaliate against any attacks in the wake of crippling strikes on the Saudi oil industry over the weekend, Iranian news agencies reported Wednesday.
The message, which was sent via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran that handles U.S. affairs in the country, condemned remarks by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials linking Iran with the attacks on a Saudi oil field and processing facility.
"Iran's response will be prompt and strong, and it may include broader areas than the source of attacks," the Mehr News Agency reported the official note as saying.
Iran's Fars News Agency said any response would be "rapid and crushing" and target "more extensive areas than the origin of the attack." There have long been fears that Iranian proxy forces in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere might attack U.S. forces in the region.
Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks, which temporarily cut Saudi Arabia's oil production in half and sent prices spiking around the world. U.S. officials, however, have cast doubt on the rebels' involvement, saying that the attacks were too sophisticated for them to have carried out.
Saudi Arabia's Defense Ministry said it would reveal new evidence of Iran's involvement in a news conference scheduled for Wednesday.
Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, is set to arrive Wednesday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the recent attacks and coordinate on countering Iran.
President Donald Trump has not blamed Iran directly for the attacks, however, pending an investigation of the incident and has said he would "like to avoid" a war.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., told reporters in London that Iran or its allies were likely involved. He said U.S. military officials are reviewing how they could "help the Saudis defend themselves."
Investigators from the United States as well as France have been dispatched to oil processing facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais to determine the origins of the projectiles that slammed into them.
The attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure were the most serious in decades and far outstripped any past attacks by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia.
The rebels have been battling a Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally recognized government in Yemen since 2015. The conflict has caused the world's most severe humanitarian crisis.
In remarks to his Cabinet, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Houthi rebels were only responding to years of attacks and airstrikes.
"The Yemeni nation was not the source of the conflict, but it was Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Americans," he said, according to Iranian media.
At the same Cabinet meeting, Iran's defense minister, Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, denied that Tehran had any role in the attack. He noted that "the Yemenis carried out a similar operation around two years ago."
The tensions in the region center on a rivalry between Saudi Arabia and regional heavyweight Iran, especially in the Persian Gulf, a key international waterway for oil shipments. The United Arab Emirates is allied with the Saudis in that confrontation.