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Iran Warns US Over Any Attack Response 09/18 06:16

   Iran warned the U.S. that any action taken against it following an attack on 
Saudi oil installations will "immediately" be met with a response from Tehran, 
its state-run news agency reported Wednesday, further raising Mideast tensions.

   TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran warned the U.S. that any action taken against it 
following an attack on Saudi oil installations will "immediately" be met with a 
response from Tehran, its state-run news agency reported Wednesday, further 
raising Mideast tensions.

   Iran's president and foreign minister also may skip next week's high-level 
meetings at the United Nations as the U.S. has yet to issue them visas, IRNA 
reported.

   The U.N. meeting had been considered as an opportunity for direct talks 
between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Donald Trump amid a 
summer of heightened tensions and attacks in the wake of America's unilateral 
withdraw from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers a year ago.

   However, the recent attack in Saudi Arabia and hardening comments from Iran 
suggest such talks are increasingly unlikely.

   Iran sent a note through Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating 
that Tehran denies being involved in the Saudi attack, IRNA reported. The Swiss 
have looked after American interests in Tehran for decades.

   "If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran's 
answer immediately," IRNA quoted the note as saying. It added that Iran's 
response wouldn't be limited to the source of the threat, without elaborating.

   IRNA separately reported Wednesday that Iran's first delegation for the 
annual U.N. event had not left Iran due to not having visas. Foreign Minister 
Mohammad Javad Zarif was to travel to New York on Friday, with Rouhani 
following behind Monday, according to the agency.

   As the host of the U.N.'s headquarters, the U.S. is mandated to offer world 
leaders and diplomats visas to attend meetings there. But as tensions have 
risen, the U.S. has put increasing restrictions on Iranians like Zarif.

   The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for 
comment Wednesday.

   U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to Saudi Arabia for 
meetings after Saturday's attack on a Saudi oil field and the world's largest 
crude oil processing plant. Saudi officials separately planned to share 
information about the weapons used in the attack they allege are Iranian.

   Saudi Arabia also said on Wednesday that it joined a U.S.-led coalition to 
secure the Mideast's waterways amid threats from Iran after an attack targeting 
its crucial oil industry, while Rouhani told the kingdom it should see the 
attack as a warning to end its yearslong war in Yemen.

   Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack. The U.S. 
accuses Iran of being behind the assault, while Saudi Arabia already has said 
"Iranian weaponry" was used. Iran denies that.

   "Almost certainly it's Iranian-backed," Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Saudi 
Arabia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, told the BBC. "We are trying not to 
react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the 
region."

   The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement Wednesday morning 
quoting an unnamed official saying the kingdom had joined the International 
Maritime Security Construct.

   Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom already have joined the mission.

   "The kingdom's accession to this international alliance comes in support of 
regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime 
navigation and global trade," the news agency said.

   Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, declined to 
comment on the Saudi announcement, saying it "would be inappropriate to comment 
on the status of individual nations and the nature of any potential support."

   The coalition aims to secure the broader Persian Gulf region. It includes 
surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf 
through which a fifth of the world's oil travels, and the Bab el-Mandeb, 
another narrow strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden off Yemen 
and East Africa. Smaller patrol boats and other craft will be available for 
rapid response. The plan also allows for nations to escort their own ships 
through the region.

   The U.S. blames Iran for the apparent limpet mine explosions on four vessels 
in May and another two in June sailing in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of 
Hormuz, something Iran denies being behind. Iran also seized a British-flagged 
oil tanker and another based in the United Arab Emirates.

   In Tehran, Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the attack 
as a warning to end its war in Yemen, where it has fought the Houthi rebels 
since 2015 and sought to restore the internationally recognized government.

   Rouhani said Yemenis "did not hit hospitals, they did not hit schools or the 
Sanaa bazaar," mentioning the Saudi-led coalition's widely criticized 
airstrikes.

   He added that Iran does not want conflict in the region, but it was the 
Saudi-led coalition that "waged the war in the region and ruined Yemen."

   "They attacked an industrial center to warn you. Learn the lesson from the 
warning," he said, portraying the Houthis as responsible for the drone strikes.

   Wednesday's announcements comes after Saudi Arabia's energy minister said 
late Tuesday that more than half of the country's daily crude oil production 
that was knocked out by an attack had been recovered and that production 
capacity at its targeted plants would be fully restored by the end of the month.

   Pompeo was due to land in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, where he was scheduled 
to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Pompeo later will travel 
to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to meet with Abu Dhabi's powerful crown 
prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Both nations are U.S. allies and 
have been fighting against the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015.

   The Saudi military planned to speak to journalists Wednesday in Riyadh to 
discuss the investigation into Saturday's attack "and present material evidence 
and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime's involvement." It did not 
elaborate.

   Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said 
Tuesday that U.S. military experts were in Saudi Arabia working with their 
counterparts to "do the forensics on the attack" --- gleaning evidence that 
could help build a convincing case for where the weapons originated.

   On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron's office announced experts 
from his nation would be traveling to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom shed 
light " on the origin and methods" of the attacks. France has been trying to 
find a diplomatic solution to the tensions between Iran and the U.S., so any 
conclusion they draw could be used to show what a third-party assessed happened.


(KR)

 
 
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