WASHINGTON, USA: US President Donald Trump has said it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia but stressed he did not want to go to war, as oil prices soared, raising the fears of a new Middle East conflict.
Iran has rejected the US charges it was behind the strikes on Saturday that damaged the world’s biggest crude-processing plant and triggered the largest jump in crude prices in decades.
Relations between the United States and Iran have deteriorated since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord last year and reimposed sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic programs. Washington also wants to pressure Tehran to end its support of regional proxy forces, including in Yemen where Saudi forces have been fighting Iran-backed Houthis for four years.
The United States was still investigating if Iran was behind the Saudi strikes, Trump said, but “it’s certainly looking that way at this moment”.
Trump, who has spent much of his presidency trying to disentangle the United States from wars he inherited, made clear, however, he was not going to rush into a new conflict on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
“I’m somebody that would like not to have war,” Trump said.
“With all that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid” war, he said. “I don’t want war with anybody but we’re prepared more than anybody.”
Several US Cabinet members, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have blamed Tehran for the strikes. Pompeo and others will travel to Saudi Arabia soon, Trump said.
A day after saying the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the incident, Trump said on Monday there was “no rush” to do so.
“We have a lot of options but I’m not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this,” he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the strikes were carried out by Yemeni people retaliating for attacks by a Saudi-led military coalition in a war with the Houthi movement.
“Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defence,” Rouhani told reporters during a visit to Ankara.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the allegations “unacceptable and entirely baseless.”
The attacks cut 5% of world crude oil production.
Oil prices surged by as much as 19% after the incidents, the biggest intraday jump since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
“You’re going to find out in great detail in the near future,” he said. “We have the exact location of just about everything.
The attacks took place early on Saturday on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have been locked in a war with a Saudi-UAE-led coalition since 2015, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
A spokesman for Saudi military on Monday said initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the weekend attacks.