WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday said it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia at the weekend that raised fears of a fresh Middle East conflict, but added that he did not want war with anyone.
The attacks damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant in Saudi Arabia and triggered the largest jump in crude prices in decades.
Several US cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, have blamed Tehran for the strikes.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the strikes were carried out by “Yemeni people” retaliating in the war with Yemen’s Houthi militants.
Asked by a reporter in the White House if Iran was behind the attacks, Trump said: “It's certainly looking that way at this moment and we'll let you know. As soon as we find out definitively we’ll let you know but it does look that way.”
The attacks cut five percent of world crude oil production.
Tension in the Gulf region has dramatically escalated this year after Trump imposed severe US sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports altogether.
The US leader said he did not want to act hastily.
“We have a lot of options but I'm not looking at options right now we want to find definitively who did this. We're dealing with Saudi Arabia. We’re dealing with the crown prince and other of your neighbors. And we’re all talking about it together. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
“I'm somebody that would like not to have war,” Trump said. “No, I don't want war with anybody but we're prepared more than anybody.”
Oil prices surged by as much as 19 percent after the incidents but later came off their peaks. The intraday jump was the biggest since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
The market eased from its peak after Trump announced that he would release US emergency supplies and producers said there were enough stocks stored up worldwide to make up for the shortfall. Prices were around 12 percent higher by afternoon in the United States.
Saudi Arabia said the attacks were carried out with Iranian weapons, adding that it was capable of responding forcefully and urging UN experts to help investigate the raid.
Iran has rejected US accusations that it was responsible.
Trump said on Sunday that the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the incident.
US Energy Secretary Perry pinned the blame squarely on Iran for “an attack on the global economy and the global energy market.”
“The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same,” he told the U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA. He added he was confident the oil market “is resilient and will respond positively.”