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UK: Iran Responsible for Saudi Attack  09/23 06:08

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Britain has concluded that Iran was responsible for attacks 
on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 
Sunday. He said the U.K. would consider taking part in a U.S.-led military 
effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom's defenses, while Iran's president announced 
plans for a rival Iranian-led security coalition.

   The U.K. Conservative prime minister also said the he would work with allies 
to "de-escalate" Middle East tensions that have soared since the Sept. 14 
attack on the world's largest oil processor and an oil field.

   Britain had previously held back from attributing blame for the drone and 
missile attack. Saudi Arabia and the United States say Iran was responsible, 
something Tehran denies.

   Johnson told reporters flying with him late Sunday to New York for the U.N. 
General Assembly that now "the U.K. is attributing responsibility with a very 
high degree of probability to Iran" for the attack by drones and cruise 
missiles.

   "We will be working with our American friends and our European friends to 
construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region," 
Johnson said.

   Shortly before leaving for the U.N. meetings Monday, Iranian President 
Hassan Rouhani said that his country will invite "all littoral states of the 
Persian Gulf" to join an Iranian-led coalition "to guarantee the region's 
security."

   His remarks were broadcast on state television.

   Rouhani said the plan --- details of which he will present at the United 
Nations --- is not limited to "security" but also encompasses economic 
cooperation and an initiative for "long-term" peace.

   Iran's president had already called on Western powers Sunday to leave the 
security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran.

   Johnson said he would meet Rouhani at this week's high-level U.N. gathering. 
Johnson is also due to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, German 
Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. He said he 
wanted Britain to be "a bridge between our European friends and the Americans 
when it comes to the crisis in the Gulf."

   The U.S. and Europe have diverged sharply on how to deal with Iran. European 
nations, including Britain, still adhere to an international deal designed to 
limit Iran's nuclear ambitions, but Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the 
agreement.

   Johnson stressed the need for a diplomatic response to the Gulf tensions, 
but said Britain would consider any request for military help. The Trump 
administration announced Friday that it would send additional U.S. troops and 
missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part 
of a "defensive" deployment. Officials said the number of troops was likely to 
be in the hundreds.

   "We will be following that very closely," Johnson said. "And clearly if we 
are asked, either by the Saudis or by the Americans, to have a role, then we 
will consider in what way we could be useful. We will consider in what way we 
could be useful, if asked, depending on what the exact plan is."

   A U.K. official told The Associated Press that a claim of responsibility for 
the attacks by Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen was "implausible." He said 
remnants of Iran-made cruise missiles were found at the attack site, and "the 
sophistication points very, very firmly to Iranian involvement." He spoke on 
the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings.

   The official did not say whether Britain believed the attack was launched 
from Iranian soil.

   Iran denies responsibility and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting 
it will result in an "all-out war."

   On Monday, Rouhani said the U.S. was exaggerating the scale of damage 
wrought by the attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil company and using it as an excuse 
to send more troops and equipment to the kingdom.

   "It is clear that they would like to completely take hold of eastern Saudi 
Arabia's oil," he said.

   Rouhani also referred to a new round of U.S. sanctions on Iran's central 
bank and other financial bodies as a "repeat cassette tape."

   Many of the sanctions had applied before Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with 
world powers promised to lift them, in exchange for curbing the country's 
atomic program.

   "This means the U.S. is completely desperate," he said, suggesting the U.S. 
had little leverage left over Iran.


(KR)

 
 
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