The Latest: Trump says it’s ‘looking like’ Iran is to blame

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on tensions in the Persian Gulf and the fallout after weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says it’s “looking like” Iran was responsible for the attacks on key oil installations in Saudi Arabia, but he says he doesn’t want war.

Trump said Monday at the White House that the U.S. is not looking at retaliatory options until he has “definitive proof” that Iran was responsible.

Still, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the U.S. “is prepared” if the attacks warrant a response.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also says “emerging information indicates that responsibility lies with Iran.”

Iran has denied involvement, though it comes amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers, including the U.S., which pulled out of the deal last year.

Trump says Pompeo will be traveling to Saudi Arabia but did not say when.

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3:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he did not discuss the attack on a major Saudi Arabian oil refinery in a meeting with the leaders of Turkey and Iran.

The United States has suggested that Iran was behind the weekend attack that crippled a substantial share of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

At a news conference Monday following the three-way meeting, Putin was asked if Russia would consider aiding Saudi Arabia following the attack and he suggested a tradeoff: The country should buy Russian surface-to-air missiles.

Putin said Saudi Arabia should “make a wise state decision, as the leaders of Iran did in their time by purchasing the S-300 and the way President Erdogan did, by purchasing the latest S-400 Triumph air defense systems from Russia.”

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3:05 p.m.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, who currently chairs the U.N. Security Council, says the attacks on key Saudi oil installations were “unanimously and unequivocally condemned” by all 15 council members.

Vassily Nebenzia said after a council meeting on Yemen on Monday that “it is inadmissible that civil objects and socio-economic infrastructure are being targeted.”

He said the international community “should not hurry with conclusions” on who was responsible, noting conflicting reports with Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels claiming responsibility and the United States blaming Iran, which backs them.

As for President Donald Trump’s statement that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to respond if necessary, Nebenzia said, “We are very concerned that incidents similar to this may provoke larger conflicts in the Gulf.”

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2:55 p.m.

Iran’s president says weekend drone attacks claimed by Yemeni rebels on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia were a “legitimate defense and counterattack” against the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Iranian state TV broadcast Hassan Rouhani’s comments to reporters Monday during a summit in Turkey to discuss the war in Syria with the Russian and Turkish leaders.

Rouhani said: “Regarding the drones attack, this problem has its root in invading Yemen. They (the Saudi-led coalition) are bombing Yemen on a daily basis.”

The pre-dawn attacks Saturday were claimed by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels, although there are questions about whether the drones were launched from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Houthis in Yemen since early 2015.

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1:30 p.m.

The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is calling the “deeply troubling” attacks on key Saudi oil installations “a direct assault on the world energy supply.”

Kelly Craft told a U.N. Security Council meeting on Yemen Monday that “the United States condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms, standing firmly with our Saudi friends.”

She reiterated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that “there is no evidence that the attacks came from Yemen” and “emerging information indicates that responsibility lies with Iran.”

Craft said the U.S. backs U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths’ efforts to facilitate a Yemen peace agreement and calls on Iranian-backed Houthi Shiite rebels fighting the government “to cease escalatory attacks that have impacted civilians in Saudi Arabia.”

She also said “Iran must stop providing lethal aid in defiance of the (U.N.) arms embargo” against Yemen.

“Only an inclusive political settlement will guarantee Yemen’s stability, unity and prosperity in the long term,” Craft said.

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12:15 p.m.

The U.N. humanitarian chief is criticizing “a persistent pattern of attacks in Yemen that kill and injure civilians, or damage critical civilian infrastructure,” and says the operating environment for aid agencies “has perhaps never been worse.”

Mark Lowcock gave a grim assessment to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, saying that attacks – such as the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes two weeks ago that killed over 100 people in a rebel-run detention center – are “shocking, but otherwise, this kind of attack is disturbingly common.”

He says aid agencies reported 300 incidents that hindered humanitarian assistance in June and July, affecting 4.9 million people. He says most of those were due to restrictions imposed by the Houthi Shiite rebels fighting Yemen’s government.

On a positive note, Lowcock has announced that Saudi Arabia plans to transfer $500 million on Sept. 25 to fulfill a humanitarian pledge it made in February. He says the United Arab Emirates has just allocated $100 million to the U.N. World Food Program and $100 million to the U.N. humanitarian agency.

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11:50 a.m.

India has condemned attack on key Saudi oil installations over the weekend as an act of terrorism.

Raveesh Kumar, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman, expressed India’s resolve to “oppose terrorism in all its forms and manifestations” in a short statement Monday.

Saudi Arabia is India’s second-largest oil supplier after Iraq. India’s dependence on Saudi oil has been growing as it stops buying Iranian oil because of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The attacks on Aramco’s main crude processing facility knocked out 5.7 million barrels of daily oil production for Saudi Arabia, or more than 5% of the world’s daily crude production.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed they launched 10 drones that caused extensive damage at the Saudi sites. However, the U.S. released satellite images overnight that it says contain evidence showing that the attacks came from either Iraq or Iran.

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11:10 a.m.

The U.N. envoy for Yemen is appealing for an urgent move toward peace in the war-ravaged country, saying the latest attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities “has consequences well beyond the region” and risks dragging Yemen “into a regional conflagration” at a minimum.

Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that the attack in Saudi Arabia and military escalation “makes the chances of a regional conflict that much higher,” and with Yemen linked in some way “this is frankly terrifying.”

He says “it isn’t entirely clear” who was behind Saturday’s attack, but says it’s “bad enough” that Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are fighting the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government, claimed responsibility.

“It is a sure sign that Yemen seems to be moving even further away from the peace we all seek,” Griffiths says, but adds that the need for peace has never been greater.

He also urges the U.N.-recognized Yemini government and the Houthis to take steps toward resuming a peace process without delay, saying: “We must maintain momentum.”

Griffiths says he’ll be intensifying his engagement with a wide range of “Yemeni stakeholders” in the coming weeks.

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10:55 a.m.

China’s foreign ministry has expressed concerns over the weekend attacks on key Saudi oil sites and says authorities have noted reports that the U.S. blamed Iran for the strikes.

Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that “given the absence of a conclusive investigation and result, I think it is irresponsible to determine who should assume responsibility for it.”

Hua also on Monday reiterated China’s position opposing “any expansion and intensification of conflicts.”

She added that Beijing calls on “the parties concerned to avoid actions that could escalate regional tensions.”

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed they launched 10 drones that caused extensive damage at the key Saudi sites. However, the U.S. released satellite images overnight that it says contain evidence showing that the attacks came from either Iraq or Iran.

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10:35 a.m.

Global oil prices are 10% higher after an attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.

Benchmark Brent crude is trading at $66.29 a barrel, up $6.07, or 10.1%, after spiking 20% in the first moments of trading Monday. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, rose $5.30, or 9.7%, to $60.15 a barrel.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks Saturday, saying they launched 10 drones that caused the extensive damage. However, the U.S. released satellite images overnight that it says contain evidence showing that the attacks came from either Iraq or Iran.

Some oil industry experts believe that commodity investors had failed to consider the risk of the heightened tensions in the Middle East. Analysts for Goldman Sachs say the attacks could add anywhere from $3 to more than $15 to the cost for a barrel of oil, depending on how much production Saudi Arabia loses and for how long.

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10:20 a.m.

A top White House official is downplaying the threat of imminent action against Iran after President Donald Trump said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” following a drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies.

Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short told reporters at the White House Monday that the president’s language is “a reflection” that his administration is advancing policies that protect the U.S. “from these sorts of oil shots.”

Short says: “I think that ‘locked and loaded’ is a broad term that talks about the realities that” the U.S. is “safer and more secure domestically from energy independence.”

The United States has blamed Iran for the weekend assault, which halved Saudi Arabia’s oil production and threatens to fuel a regional crisis. Short said more evidence is coming and that Trump’s national security team will be meeting Monday morning.

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10 a.m.

A Saudi military spokesman says initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the weekend attack on the country’s oil installations.

Col. Turki al-Malki also told reporters in Riyadh on Monday that the early morning strikes on Saturday were not launched from Yemen as claimed by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels who are at war with Saudi Arabia.

Al-Maliki did not elaborate further and said the results of the investigation would be made public to the media when complete.

The attacks on Aramco’s main crude processing facility knocked out 5.7 million barrels of daily oil production for Saudi Arabia, or more than 5% of the world’s daily crude production.

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9:45 a.m.

A lawmaker in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party says Germany should reconsider its ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the weekend attack on Saudi oil sites.

Juergen Hardt, parliamentary foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats, told media network RND on Monday “a lifting of the export ban on defensive weapons systems is in our strategic interest” to help Saudi Arabia protect itself.

Germany rescinded arms export permits to Saudi Arabia last year in response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Hardt also called for a review of Germany’s Iran policy, saying “there is no clear evidence of direct Iranian aerial attacks on the Saudi refinery, but Iran’s close collaboration with the Yemeni Houthi militia is obvious.”

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9:10 a.m.

A leading economist in Norway says the attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia could unleash a series of events that would hit the Norwegian economy hard.

Oeystein Doerum, chief economist with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, the country’s largest organization for employers and the leading business lobbyist, says Norway is “completely dependent on trade with the outside world.”

Doerum told the Norwegian news agency NTB on Monday that “it is positive when oil prices rise as a result of an increased demand but not when it is the consequence of a terrorist attack.”

Norway is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and gas.

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8:50 a.m.

Russia’s foreign ministry has expressed “grave concern” about a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

The ministry said in a statement on Monday that it condemns attacks on vital infrastructure or any actions that could disrupt global energy supplies and upset energy prices.

Moscow, however, warned other countries against putting the blame on Iran for the attack and said that plans of military retaliation against Iran are unacceptable.

U.S. officials offered satellite images of the damage at Saudi Arabia’s crucial oil processing plant and a key oil field, alleging the pattern of destruction suggested the attack on Saturday came from either Iraq or Iran.

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8:30 a.m.

Iraq’s prime minister says the U.S. secretary of state has told him that Washington possesses information that backs up the Iraqi government’s denial the weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities originated from Iraqi territory.

That’s according to a read-out of the phone call Monday between Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The statement says Abdul-Mahdi told Pompeo the Iraqi government is keen on preventing the use of its territory to launch attack against any neighboring country.

U.S. officials have offered satellite imagery alleging that the pattern of destruction in Saturday’s attack suggested it came from either Iraq or Iran – rather than Yemen, as claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there.

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8:20 a.m.

The German government says it sees no need to open its strategic oil reserves following the attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia.

Economy Ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron said Monday that officials are “of course watching the situation very closely” but don’t currently see any threat to the oil supply in Germany.

Europe’s biggest economy relies almost entirely on imports for its petroleum needs, but draws on supplies from several producers, mainly Russia.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany has no information of its own on who was behind the attack, which has been claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Echoing earlier comments by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Seibert said it’s important to get a “precise attribution of responsibility” before considering taking further steps.

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8:15 a.m.

Airlines and cruise operators are coming under pressure as jittery investors send their shares lower before the opening bell due to concerns over rising oil prices.

Global energy prices are surging on Monday after a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia caused the worst disruption to world supplies on record.

S&P Global Platts is predicting a more than $10 increase in the price of light North Sea crude oil. While Saudi Arabia can maintain exports and use reserves in the short term, a prolonged disruption would hurt OPEC’s spare capacity and the ability of International Energy Agency to use reserves to shore up the market, the company said.

Among the airlines whose shares are down 2% or more in premarket trading are Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., JetBlue Airways Co., Spirit Airlines Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc.

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. dropped 2%, while Carnival Corp. fell 3%.

“High oil prices are clearly an unwelcome event in the current economic climate, especially if they stay at this level for a prolonged period of time,” Ivan Petrella, associate professor of economics at Warwick Business School, said in an emailed statement.

The demand for more limited oil supplies is helping to push the shares of energy companies higher. Exxon Mobil Corp.’s stock rose 4%, while Royal Dutch Shell, PetroChina Co. and Total SA all rose about 2%.

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7:20 a.m.

Japanese Trade Minister Isshu Sugawara says Japan is closely watching a possible impact on its oil supply and market movement following a weekend attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

Sugawara said in a statement on Monday that Japan has oil reserves for about 230 days of domestic consumption but if necessary, it can release some of the reserves and set in motion other measures, in cooperation with other countries and the International Energy Agency.

The tensions in the Persian Gulf have escalated following a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that U.S. alleged Iran was responsible for – charges that Tehran denies. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed they targeted a Saudi processing facility and an oil filed with drones.

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6 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has condemned what he called “Iran’s attack on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference in Vienna.

Perry said on Monday in Austria that “this behavior is unacceptable” and that Iran “must be held responsible.”

He added: “Make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market.”

He said that President Donald Trump has authorized the release of strategic oil reserves should the U.S. need them, and that his “department stands ready” to proceed if necessary.

Perry also added that “despite Iran’s malign efforts we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond.”

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5:50 a.m.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are warning of more attacks on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and are urging foreign companies doing business in the kingdom to stay away from its energy sites.

Yahia Sarie, a spokesman for the Houthis, said on Monday that facilities such as the Abqaiq oil processing plant and a key Saudi oil field that were hit this weekend “could be targeted at any time.”

The Houthis have claimed the attack on Saturday but the U.S. has blamed Iran, releasing satellite images it alleges show the incoming fire may have come from either Iraq or Iran.

Iran has denied being involved in the attack, though it comes amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

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5:20 a.m.

Iran’s government says it will not negotiate with the United States while it’s under U.S. sanctions and urged Washington to return to the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Monday that lifting the sanctions is a main pre-requisite.

He says that “halting sanctions is a basic condition. We do not negotiate under sanctions, not anymore.” He said Iran did so once before, when it was negotiating the nuclear deal.

He says there has been “no new word, no new plan, no new discourse,” in the recent U.S. offer of talks.

Last year, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal between Iran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic that sent the country’s economy into freefall.

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4:55 a.m.

Germany’s foreign minister has sharply condemned a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia.

Heiko Maas also told reporters on Monday in Berlin that “the situation is exceedingly worrisome; this is really the very last thing that we currently need in this conflict.”

The tensions roiling the Persian Gulf escalated following the attack on major Saudi oil sites that U.S. alleged Iran was responsible for – charges that Tehran denies. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack.

Maas said while Germany is aware the Houthis claimed responsibility, it is currently evaluating with its partners, “who is responsible for this attack, how it could happen.”

Maas stressed that it’s important to analyze the situation with “sober-mindedness.”

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4:25 a.m.

Iraq’s prime minister says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has telephoned him amid soaring tensions in the region after a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi said he received the phone call on Monday. There were no immediate details on what the two sides discussed.

U.S. officials have offered satellite images of the damage at Saudi Arabia’s crucial Abqaiq oil processing plant and a key oil field, alleging the pattern of destruction suggested the attack on Saturday came from either Iraq or Iran – rather than Yemen, as claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there.

Iraq, which is home to powerful Iran-backed militias, has categorically denied its airspace was used to launch an attack on the kingdom.

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3:30 a.m.

Iran says a meeting between the presidents of the U.S. and Iran on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month is not on the agenda.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that “this meeting will not happen” and called reports about a potential face-to-face between Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani as mere “speculation.”

However, the U.S. has said it will remain open for talks with Iran. Trump tweeted Sunday: The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, “No Conditions.” That is an incorrect statement (as usual!)”

The tensions roiling the Persian Gulf escalated following a weekend attack on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that U.S. alleged Iran was responsible for – charges that Tehran denies. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed they targeted a Saudi processing facility and an oil filed with drones.

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10:10 p.m.

Global energy prices have spiked after an attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure as President Donald Trump warned Iran that America was “locked and loaded” to respond to an assault it alleges Tehran orchestrated.

Benchmark Brent crude gained nearly 20% in the first moments of trading Monday before settling down to 10% higher. A barrel of Brent traded up $6 to $66.28.

U.S. benchmark West Texas crude was up around 9%.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attacks Saturday. However, the U.S. released satellite images overnight Monday it alleges shows the fire came from either Iraq or Iran.

Iran has denied being involved in the attack, though it comes amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

This image provided on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, by the U.S. government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at Saudi Aramco’s Kuirais oil field in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia. The drone attack Saturday on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field led to the interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels of the kingdom’s crude oil production per day, equivalent to more than 5% of the world’s daily supply. (U.S. government/Digital Globe via AP)
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