Iran says Yemeni rebel attack on Saudi oil sites a ‘legitimate defence’

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Iran said Monday that the missile-and-drone attack on major Saudi oil sites earlier this month was an act of “legitimate defence” by Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

The Sept. 14 assault was claimed by the Houthis, though Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” The kingdom has been at war with the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015.

Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.”

READ MORE: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says it is ready for ‘any scenario’ amid standoff with U.S.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday called Saudi accusations “baseless,” adding that Iran supports the Houthis though “spiritual and political” means. He added that “cease-fire and dialogue” was the only face-saving solution for Saudi Arabia.

Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said the world has ignored another possibility, that the Houthis could have used Russian weapons seized from the Yemeni army or that they had procured them on the weapons market.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired on Sunday that “only a fool would attack” major Saudi oil sites and urged “strong and firm action to deter Iran.”

The attack on oil facilities has heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington. U.S.-Iranian relations have deteriorated since President Donald Trump last year pulled America out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions that sent the country’s economy into freefall.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif criticized Europe for failing to save the nuclear deal from unraveling.

READ MORE: Saudi oil site attack on Iranian ‘act of war,’ Pompeo says

Earlier this month, France proposed offering a $15-billion line of credit to compensate Iran for not being able to sell its crude oil abroad because of U.S. sanctions.

Speaking to a group of Iranian expatriates in Frankfurt, Germany, during a stopover Sunday on his way home from attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Zarif said Europe had been trying “for five months” to create a credit line for Iran to sell its oil, “but it has failed to manage even such a minor job.”

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“When we enter talks with a European president whose country is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that has an atomic bomb, he tells us ‘I cannot do anything without president Trump’,” Zarif said. He did not name the European country, but the comment was interpreted as a reference to French President Emmanuel Macron.