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US slams as 'spin' Saudi denial OPEC+ cut was political

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby

The United States has slammed Saudi Arabia for insisting last week's output cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+), in which Riyadh is a top producer, was economically rather than politically motivated.

"The Saudi Foreign Ministry can try to spin or deflect, but the facts are simple. The world is rallying behind Ukraine in combating Russian aggression," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Thursday.

The oil-exporting alliance, which includes the 13 OPEC nations and 11 non-members including Russia, made the production cut announcement on Wednesday. The group agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day, equal to 2 percent of global supply.

Independent observers believe the Biden administration is worried that the decision to cut oil production will cause a gas price hike in the US ahead of the November midterm elections which Democrats are already set to lose to the Republicans.

The OPEC move was a large blow to the administration of Biden, who visited oil-rich Saudi Arabia on a July trip to appeal to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a statement on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry rejected as “not based on facts” claims that the slash in oil production was politically motivated against the US, saying that OPEC+ adopted the decision through consensus, took into account the balance of supply and demand and tried to curb market volatility.

"Saudi Arabia has viewed the statements... which have described the decision as the kingdom taking sides in international conflicts and that it was politically motivated against the United States," the Saudi foreign ministry said in the statement.

Saudi Arabia would "like to express its total rejection of these statements that are not based on facts and which are based on portraying the OPEC+ decision out of its economic context," it added.

The White House said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden was re-evaluating the US relationship with Saudi Arabia after the oil production cut. 

"I think the president's been very clear that this is a relationship that we need to continue to re-evaluate, that we need to be willing to revisit," Kirby said in an interview with CNN. "And certainly in light of the OPEC decision, I think that's where he is."

The spokesman added that Biden is willing to work with Congress on the future of Saudi relations.

Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Monday, urged the country to freeze its cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including most arms sales, accusing the kingdom of helping to underwrite the Russian war in Ukraine.

"The United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary...," Menendez said.

The White House spokesman said the issue does not only concern the war in Ukraine but it is a matter of US national security interests.

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