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Iran defends Yemen drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities as 'self-defense'

This satellite overview handout image obtained September 16, 2019 courtesy of Planet Labs Inc. shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq on September 14 2019 in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by AFP)

Iran's president says the Yemeni army's recent drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities were merely for legitimate self-defense, and no one can expect them to remain silent when their country is destroyed.

The people of Yemen "have to respond" to the foreign aggression and the influx of US and European weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, President Hassan Rouhani told a briefing held in Ankara on Monday after his trilateral summit with Russian and Turkish counterparts.

"They cannot avoid legitimate defense when their country is being destroyed. What Yemenis do is legitimate self-defense, and reciprocal attack," Rouhani stressed.

His remarks came after Yemen's Ansarullah movement and their allies in the Yemeni army deployed as many as 10 drones to bomb Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities run by the Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco before dawn Saturday.

The unprecedented attack knocked out more than half of Saudi crude output, or 5% of global supply, prompting Saudi and US officials to claim without any evidence that it probably originated from Iraq or Iran.

Two sources briefed on Aramco's operations told Reuters it might take months for Saudi oil production to return to normal. Earlier estimates had suggested it could take weeks.

Astana Process good model for Yemen

In his Monday remarks, Rouhani also called for the end of the Saudi aggression against the Yemeni nation as a principal solution to end the war.

"We believe a political solution is needed to settle the Yemen crisis, and maybe what we witnessed in the Astana Process could be a role model for Yemen, and regional countries would be able to restore peace and security to the region."

The Astana Process is an initiative by Iran, Russia, and Turkey which mediate peace negotiations between representatives from the Syrian government and opposition groups in several rounds held in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) and other places since January 2017.

Trump: Looks like Iran behind Saudi attacks

US President Donald Trump on Monday once again claimed that it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia.

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."

"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.

Trump claimed he is a person who "would like not to have war". "No, I don't want war with anybody but we're prepared more than anybody."

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Saudi vows to 'respond strongly'

Earlier on Monday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry released a statement in which it refused to directly accuse Iran of being behind the attack, but said the Kingdom is capable of defending its lands and people and can respond strongly to these attacks.

Riyadh said in the statement it will invite international experts including those from the United Nations to participate in investigating an attack on its oil facilities.

“Saudi Arabia condemns this grave attack, which threatens international peace and security, and maintains that the aim of this attack is directed primarily at the global energy supply, and is an extension of previous hostile acts against pumping stations of Saudi Aramco through the use of Iranian weapons,” the statement alleged.

The so-called Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia later claimed that investigations indicated the weapons used in the attacks were Iranian.

The allegations come as Iran has repeatedly dismissed the claims of its involvement in the drone attacks, saying “futile allegations and blind statements as such are incomprehensible and meaningless within the framework of diplomacy.”

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of its vassal states in waging war on Yemen since March 2015 to reinstall former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who resigned from presidency and fled to Riyadh in January 2015 amid popular outcry over corruption and mismanagement of the economy. Houthi Ansarullah fighters then took over state matters to prevent the country from descending into chaos.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

The war has taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

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