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article imageIran refutes US accusations over Saudi attacks

By AFP     Sep 15, 2019 in World

Iran on Sunday dismissed US accusations it was behind drone attacks on Saudi oil installations, suggesting Washington was seeking a pretext to retaliate against the Islamic republic.

"Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying in a statement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Iran after Saturday's attacks, which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia's oil production.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Huthi rebels claimed responsibility for the drone strikes, but Pompeo said "there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen".

"The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression," the top US diplomat tweeted.

Mousavi said the US allegations over the pre-dawn strikes on Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province were meant to justify actions against Iran.

"Such remarks... are more like plotting by intelligence and secret organisations to damage the reputation of a country and create a framework for future actions," he said.

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 multilateral deal that promised Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of diverting blame for the war in Yemen, where US ally Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that has regularly carried out air strikes.

"Today, witness that innocents die every day in Yemen ... Americans, instead of blaming themselves -- and confessing that their presence in the region is creating problems -- blame the region's countries or Yemen's people," Rouhani said.

"If we want there to be real security in the region, the solution is that America's aggression cease," Iran's president added, before leaving for Ankara to attend a trilateral meeting on Syria with Turkey and Russia.

"We believe the region's issues can be solved through talks in Yemen, Yemeni-Yemeni negotiations -- they must decide for themselves. The bombardment of Yemeni people must stop," Rouhani said.

- 'Maximum lying' -

Since its withdrawal from the nuclear accord, the United States has slapped crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a campaign of "maximum pressure".

The Islamic republic has responded by reducing its nuclear commitments.

"The Americans have taken the policy of 'maximum pressure' which has apparently turned into 'maximum lying' due to their failures," said Mousavi.

The arch-foes were on the cusp of confrontation in June when Iran downed a US drone and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before cancelling them at the last minute.

In remarks published Sunday, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' aerospace arm said Iran's missiles could hit US bases and ships within a range of 2,000 kilometres (about 1,240 miles).

"Neither us nor the Americans want a war," Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said, quoted by Tasnim news agency, which is considered close to the Guards.

"Of course, some forces facing each other in the field could do something, by which a war could start," the commander said.

"We have always prepared ourselves for a full-fledged war... everyone should know that all American bases and their vessels in a 2,000-kilometre range can be targeted by our missiles," he added.

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