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Iran Rejects U.S. Accusations On Drone Attacks That Crippled Saudi Oil Production

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The predawn attacks, which sparked large blazes at the Abqaiq and Khurais oil-processing facilities, were claimed by Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was behind a major drone attack that crippled much of Saudi Arabia's oil-production capacity, and warned that U.S. land and naval forces in the region were within range of its missiles.

The September 15 comments by top Iranian officials followed accusations from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who charged that Tehran had launched "an unprecedented attack" on global energy supplies.

Huthi rebels in Yemen, who are backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for the attacks on two oil-processing sites in eastern Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer.

The September 14 attacks reduced production by 5.7 million barrels a day, state oil giant Saudi Aramco said -- nearly half the kingdom's output. That affects 5 percent of the world's daily oil production, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rohani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," Pompeo said in the Twitter post.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi, however, denied Iranian involvement, saying in a statement that "such fruitless and blind accusations are incomprehensible and meaningless."

The accusations, he said, were intended to justify "future actions" against Iran.

A senior Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, meanwhile, warned that the county was ready for war.

"Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles," the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted commander Amirali Hajizadeh as saying.

Pompeo said that despite international calls for calming tensions in the Persian Gulf region, "Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply."

"We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran's attacks," he said.

Pompeo's tough rhetoric was echoed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a White House ally.

In a post to Twitter, Graham said it was time to consider an attack on "Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment."

Attacks Before Dawn

The predawn attacks sparked large blazes at the Abqaiq and Khurais oil-processing facilities that Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said "resulted in a temporary suspension of production."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Department said it would consider releasing strategic oil reserves if needed. The reserve contains about 630 million barrels of oil, according to official data, and past presidents have released quantities during times of crisis, if there are fears of skyrocketing prices.

Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Huthi rebels, which are part of a regional network of militant groups aligned with Iran. The Shi'ite insurgent group holds Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and other territory in the Arab world's poorest country.

The conflict has been in military stalemate for years.

The attacks came as Saudi Aramco prepares for a much-anticipated and much-delayed initial public offering.

That listing forms the cornerstone of a reform program proposed by Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, aimed at weaning the economy off its reliance on oil.

Saudi Aramco -- the world's most profitable company -- describes its Abqaiq oil-processing facility in Buqyaq as "the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world."

The September 14 attacks highlight how the increasingly advanced weaponry of the Huthi rebels -- from ballistic missiles to unmanned drones -- poses a serious threat to oil installations in Saudi Arabia.

The drone strikes drew swift condemnation from the United States, the United Nations, and Riyadh's Gulf allies -- the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

That followed an earlier statement from Riyadh saying the crown prince told President Donald Trump that the kingdom was ""willing and able" to respond to the attacks claimed by the Yemeni rebels.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, WSJ, Oilprice.com, Platts, AFP, and dpa
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