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Saudi Arabia to invite UN experts to investigate oil attack: statement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will invite international experts including from the United Nations to participate in investigating an attack on its oil facilities and called on the world to condemn those behind it, its foreign ministry said on Monday.

“The kingdom is capable of defending its land and people and responding forcefully to those attacks,” the ministry statement said.

The ministry said the attack above all targeted global oil supplies and called it an extension of previous hostile acts against oil pumping stations in May.

Iran had earlier dismissed accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting global energy supplies and warned on Sunday that US bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles.

Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5 per cent of global supply, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally.

The drone strikes on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, were expected to send oil prices up $5-10 per barrel on Monday as tensions rise in the Middle East.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of diverting blame for the war in Yemen, where US ally Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that has regularly carried out air strikes.

“Today, witness that innocents die every day in Yemen … Americans, instead of blaming themselves — and confessing that their presence in the region is creating problems — blame the region’s countries or Yemen’s people,” Rouhani said.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, speaking on state TV, dismissed the US allegation as “pointless”.

Mousavi said the US allegations over the pre-dawn strikes on Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province were meant to justify actions against Iran.

“Such remarks… are more like plotting by intelligence and secret organisations to damage the reputation of a country and create a framework for future actions,” he said.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander warned that the Islamic Republic was ready for “full-fledged” war.

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

State oil giant Saudi Aramco said the attack cut output by 5.7 million barrels per day, at a time when Aramco is trying to ready itself for what is expected to be the world’s largest share sale.

Aramco gave no timeline for output resumption but said early on Sunday it would give a progress update in around 48 hours. A source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.

Traders and analysts said crude may spike to as high as $100 if Riyadh fails to quickly bring back supply.

Riyadh said it would compensate for the loss by drawing on its stocks which stood at 188 million barrels in June, according to official data. The United States said it was also ready to tap emergency oil reserves if needed.

The Saudi bourse closed down 1.1pc with banking and petrochemical shares taking the biggest hit. Saudi petrochemical firms announced a significant reduction in feedstock supplies.

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