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U.S. keeps pressure on Iran over Saudi oil attack

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  The United States kept the pressure on Iran on Monday, accusing it of perpetrating a damaging attack on Saudi oil refineries even as rebel fighters in Yemen doubled down on their claim of responsibility.

The drone attacks on Saturday, which caused fires at two facilities operated by Saudi state oil giant, Aramco, in the eastern province of Buqyaq, sent global oil prices rising faster than they had in decades.

U.S. Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, said the attacks were “a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market,’’ speaking at the annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

“Despite Iran’s malign efforts, we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond positively,’’ he added.

The EU and China issued warnings on Monday, however, not to jump to conclusions.

“It is important to clearly establish facts and then determine responsibility,’’ EU Foreign Policy spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, reiterated in Brussels.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said it was “irresponsible” to draw conclusions without a conclusive investigation and called on parties to refrain from escalating regional tensions.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen threatened to carry out further attacks, with the spokesman, Yahia Sarie, saying on Monday that “our hands can reach any place at the time we decide’’.

Satellite images shared by unnamed U.S. officials were cited in media, including ABC, CBS and the New York Times, as evidence that the attack could not have come from Yemen, as the points of impact on the Saudi targets were inconsistent with an attack from the south, where Yemen lies.

The price of oil increased significantly in the first minutes of trading on Monday following drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities.

Prices initially climbed by up to 20 per cent before falling again somewhat.

A barrel (159 litres) of Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, went up in price by just over six dollars, to $66.60.

The price of West Texas Intermediate also went up by around 10 per cent, rising $5.45 to bring the cost of a barrel to $60.30.

Buqyaq is home to the world’s largest oil refining plant, according to Aramco.

US President Donald Trump announced late Sunday that he has approved the release of resources from the United States’ strategic petroleum reserve “if needed”.

“Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorised the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied,’’ Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump also tweeted that the U.S. was “locked and loaded’’ and waiting for word from Saudi Arabia on how the allies should respond to the attacks.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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