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Saudi Arabia says it is trying to ward off war, ball in Iran's court

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia wants to ward off war in the region but is ready to react with "all strength and determination" after last week's attacks on Saudi Arabian oil assets, a senior official said on Sunday and added that the ball was now in Iran's court.

FILE PHOTO: Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, speaks during a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 4, 2019. REUTERS / Faisal Al Nasser

Riyadh has accused Tehran of order Tuesday's drone effects on two oil pump stations in the Kingdom, claimed by Yemen's Iran-adapted Houthi group. The attack came two days after four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged outside the United Arab Emirates.

Iran has denied it was behind the attacks that come as Washington and the Islamic Republic saves sanctions and the US military presence in the region, raising concerns about a potential conflict between the United States and Iran.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want a war in the region or seek it," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a press conference.

"It will do what it can to prevent this war and at the same time confirm that if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will react with all power and determination, and it will defend itself and its interests." [19659004] King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Sunday urged Gulf and Arab leaders to convene the Mecca emergency meeting on May 30 to discuss the consequences of the attacks. [L5N22U0PA]

"The current critical circumstances bring about a uniform Arabic and bay attitude towards the obsessed challenges and risks," said the UAE Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Saudi Arabian Allies UAE has not sign someone for the tanker operation, pending an investigation. No one has considered responsibility, but two US government sources said last week that US officials believed Iran had urged the Houthi group or Iraq-based Shiite militants to do so.

Houthiserna, who is struggling with a Saudi Arabian-led coalition in Yemen, said that they were carrying out the strike on oil pump stations in the realm, which did not interfere with production or exports in the world's largest crude exporter.

A Norwegian insurance report seen by Reuters said that Iran's revolutionary guards were "very likely" to have facilitated attacks on ships near UAE's Fujairah emirate, a major bunker hub located just outside the Hormuzan beach.


Washington has tightened economic sanctions against Iran and tried to lower Tehran's oil production to zero and crushed the US military presence in the bay in response to what it said was Iranian threats to US troops and interests.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed regional development, including efforts to strengthen security and stability, in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Saudi media ministry tweeted on Sunday.

"We want peace and stability in the region, but we will not be in the hands of the continuing Iranian attack," Jubeir said. "The ball is in Iran's court and it is up to Iran to decide what its fate will be."

He said the crew of an Iranian oil tanker who had been drawn to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the month following a request for assistance because the engine's problems were still in the kingdom receiving the "necessary care". The crew is 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

Saudi Arabia and Shi Iran it it Iran are arch-opponents in the Middle East and support opposite sides in several regional wars.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has rejected the possibility of war outbreaks, saying that Tehran did not want conflict and no country had the "illusion it could confront Iran".

In a sign of the increased tension, Exxon Mobil evacuated foreign staff from an oil field in neighboring Iraq.

Bahrain on Saturday warned the citizens of traveling to Iraq and Iran and asked those who were already there to return. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advice for US commercial airline flights flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Oman Gulf to exercise caution.

Further reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Writing by Stephen Kalin and Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Diane Craft

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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