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Weapons used to strike Saudi oil facilities 'came from Iran': Coalition

Weapons used to strike Saudi oil facilities came from Iran: Coalition

Riyadh - "This strike didn't come from Yemen territory as the Houthi militia are pretending"


Published: Tue 17 Sep 2019, 9:13 PM

The weapons used to strike Saudi oil facilities were Iranian-made, the Riyadh-led coalition said Monday, heightening fears of regional conflict after the US hinted at a military response to the assault.

The weekend strikes on Abqaiq - the world's largest oil processing facility - and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia have roiled global energy markets sending prices spiking Monday.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the strikes but Washington has squarely blamed Iran, with President Donald Trump saying the US is "locked and loaded" to respond.

Saudi's energy infrastructure has been hit before, but this strike was of a different order, abruptly halting 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) or about six percent of the world's oil supply.

The Saudi-led coalition reiterated the assessment that the Houthis were not behind it, pointing the finger at Iran for providing the weapons.

Russia urged "all countries to avoid hasty steps or conclusions that could exacerbate the situation" while the European Union stressed all sides should show "maximum restraint".

China also called on the US and Iran to "exercise restraint... in the absence of a conclusive investigation or verdict."

"All indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran," coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki told reporters in Riyadh, adding they were now probing "from where they were fired".

"This strike didn't come from Yemen territory as the Houthi militia are pretending," Maliki said, adding an investigation had been opened.

He labelled the Houthis "a tool in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iran".

The rebels said they fired 10 drones at the Saudi infrastructure, but the New York Times reported that US officials had satellite images showing the attacks - possibly with drones and cruise missiles - had come from the north or northwest.

That indicated they were sourced in the northern Arabian Gulf, Iran or Iraq, rather than Yemen.

The assault on the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry, which engulfed the facilities in flames, has been condemned by Washington as an "unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply".

Oil prices saw their biggest daily gain since the 1991 Gulf War on Monday after the attacks halved output in the world's top crude exporter, fuelling fresh geopolitical and growth fears.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry insisted world oil markets still had sizeable reserves saying the market has "a fairly substantial amount of oil out there available".

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Sunday said the kingdom would use its vast inventories to partially compensate for the lost production, and the US also authorised the release of its reserves.

"Growing tensions in the Middle East are another headwind for the global economy in already uncertain times, and a full-blown conflict could trigger another leg in the global downturn," said Jennifer McKeown, head of Global Economics at Capital Economics.

With the Houthis threatening further attacks, analyst Oanda senior market analyst Craig Erlam noted Saturday's events had "highlighted the vulnerability of security at these facilities to drone attacks".

Saudi authorities have sought to calm jittery markets, with the Energy Intelligence specialist newsletter citing industry sources as saying Aramco was "close to restoring as much as 40 percent" of the lost production, or about 2.3 million barrels per day (bdp).

The Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the damage estimates as saying the targeted facilities would take weeks to return to full production capacity.

The real extent of the damage at the facilities however remains unclear.

All eyes are on official word from the Saudis on the situation, which could offer reassurance to world markets.

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