Irán niega implicación en ataques contra petrolera saudí Aramco / Iran rejects US claim it was behind Saudi oil strikes, says ready for war

TEHERÁN.- El Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores iraní negó hoy la implicación de su país en los ataques del sábado contra la petrolera saudí Aramco y denunció planes de servicios de inteligencia para «destruir la imagen» de Irán.

El portavoz de Exteriores, Abas Musaví, calificó en un comunicado las acusaciones de Estados Unidos sobre la responsabilidad iraní en los citados ataques de «sin sentido».

Dos refinerías saudíes de Aramco sufrieron ataques con drones el sábado que supusieron una reducción de cerca del 50 % en su producción y que fueron reivindicados por los rebeldes hutíes yemeníes, que cuentan con el apoyo de Irán.

El secretario de Estado estadounidense, Mike Pompeo, acusó a Irán de haber lanzado «un ataque sin precedentes contra el suministro de energía del mundo», indicando que «no hay evidencias» de que esa ofensiva tenga su origen en el Yemen.

Secretario de Estado de EE. UU. Mike Pompeo (REUTERS)

Musaví dijo que esas «acusaciones ciegas» carecen de «un mínimo de credibilidad» y que los estadounidenses tienen tendencia a «la mentira máxima».

«Este tipo de medidas se parecen más a los planes de las agencias de inteligencia para destruir la imagen de un país (Irán) con el objetivo de allanar el camino para llevar a cabo algunas acciones en el futuro», advirtió.

El portavoz destacó que «los yemeníes han mostrado su resistencia» ante los bombardeos de la coalición árabe liderada por Arabia Saudí contra los rebeldes hutíes y en apoyo del presidente Abdo Rabu Mansur Hadi.

«La única vía para crear paz en la región y para acabar con ese conflicto en el Yemen es parar los ataques y las violaciones de la coalición saudí», afirmó Musaví.

Para ello, también es necesario, según el portavoz, «eliminar las ayudas políticas y armamentísticas de los países occidentales» a los miembros de esa coalición.

Buena parte de las armas que Riad usa en el Yemen provienen de manos del Gobierno de Donald Trump, que ha ofrecido su apoyo inquebrantable a Arabia Saudí y con quien se ha aliado para hacer frente a Irán.

El Gobierno iraní, por su parte, asegura que su respaldo a los hutíes es solo político y de asesoramiento, pero es acusado por EEUU y otros países de financiar y armar a los rebeldes.

La guerra del Yemen comenzó a finales de 2014 cuando los rebeldes se hicieron con el control de Saná y se generalizó en marzo de 2015 con la intervención de la coalición liderada por Arabia Saudí.

EFE/SPLL

ENGLISH

* Attack knocked out 5% of global crude supply

* Source says could take weeks to resume full output

* Washington blames Iran for attack

* Yemen’s Houthi movement says it was behind drone attack

* Saudi de facto ruler says Riyadh willing and able to act (Adds comment by U.S. official, EU, Indian refinery source)

By Rania El Gamal and Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Iran dismissed accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting global energy supplies and warned on Sunday that U.S. bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles.

Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5% of global supply, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally.

The drone strikes on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, were expected to send oil prices up $5-10 per barrel on Monday as tensions rise in the Middle East.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, speaking on state TV, dismissed the U.S. allegation as “pointless”. A senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for “full-fledged” war.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometres around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted commander Amirali Hajizadeh as saying.

State oil giant Saudi Aramco said the attack cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day, at a time when Aramco is trying to ready itself for what is expected to be the world’s largest share sale.

Aramco gave no timeline for output resumption but said early on Sunday it would give a progress update in around 48 hours. A source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.

Traders and analysts said crude may spike to as high as $100 if Riyadh fails to quickly bring back supply.

The kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter, ships more than 7 million barrels of oil to global destinations every day. Aramco told one Indian refinery that it would deliver crude from other sources and had adequate inventory, a refinery source said.

Riyadh said it would compensate for the loss by drawing on its stocks which stood at 188 million barrels in June, according to official data. The United States said it was also ready to tap emergency oil reserves if needed.

The Saudi bourse closed down 1.1% with banking and petrochemical shares taking the biggest hit. Saudi petrochemical firms announced a significant reduction in feedstock supplies.

“Abqaiq is the nerve center of the Saudi energy system. Even if exports resume in the next 24-48 hours, the image of invulnerability has been altered,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told Reuters.

“UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK”

According to U.S. government information, 15 structures at Abqaiq suffered damage on their west-northwest facing sides.

Pompeo said there was no evidence the attack came from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for over four years in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Muslim rival Iran.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” he said.

Riyadh accused Iran of being behind previous attacks on oil pumping stations and the Shaybah oilfield, charges Tehran denies. It has not yet blamed any party for Saturday’s strike, but linked it to a recent series of attacks on Saudi oil assets and crude tankers in Gulf waters.

Riyadh says Iran arms the Houthis, a charge both deny.

Some Iraqi media outlets said the attack came from there, where Iran-backed paramilitary groups wield increasing power. Iraq denied this on Sunday and vowed to punish anyone using Iraq as a launchpad for attacks.

Regional tensions have escalated since Washington quit an international nuclear deal and extended sanctions on Iran to choke off its vital oil exports.

The European Union warned that Saturday’s attack posed a real threat to regional security and France said such as actions could only worsen “risk of conflict”. Iran’s ally Turkey called for the avoidance of “provocative steps”.

US-IRAN TALKS

The attack comes after U.S. President Donald Trump said a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was possible at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. Tehran ruled out talks until sanctions are lifted.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway did not rule out a possible meeting between the two but told “Fox News Sunday” that the strikes “did not help” that prospect. nL2N26603O

Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Trump that Riyadh was willing and able to deal with the “terrorist aggression”.

A senior Emirati official said the UAE, Riyadh’s main partner in the Western-backed military coalition in Yemen, would fully support Saudi Arabia as the assault “targets us all”.

The UAE, worried about rising Iran tensions and Western criticism of the war, has reduced its presence in Yemen, leaving Riyadh to try to neutralise the Houthi threat along its border.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif. EFE

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Washington and its allies were “stuck in Yemen” and that blaming Tehran “won’t end the disaster”.

The conflict has been in military stalemate for years. The alliance has air supremacy but has come under scrutiny over civilian deaths and a humanitarian crisis that has left millions facing starvation. The Houthis, more adept at guerrilla warfare, have increased attacks on Saudi cities, thwarting peace efforts.

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal and Parisa Hafezi; Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar in Dubai, Timothy Gardner in Washington, John Irish in Paris and Alex Lawler, Julia Payne and Ron Bousso in London, Robin Emmott in Brussels; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, William Maclean)