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Saudis: Don't Want War But Will Defend 05/19 08:53

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Saudi Arabia does not want war but will 
not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top Saudi diplomat said Sunday 
amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf after attacks on the kingdom's 
energy sector.

   Adel al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke a week 
after four oil tankers--- two of them Saudi--- were targeted in an alleged act 
of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and days after 
Iran-allied Yemeni rebels claimed a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.

   "The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the region and does not 
strive for that... but at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the 
kingdom will fight this with all force and determination and it will defend 
itself, its citizens and its interests," al-Jubeir told reporters.

   A senior Iranian military commander was similarly quoted as saying his 
country is not looking for war, in comments published in Iranian media on 
Sunday.

   Fears of armed conflict were already running high after the White House 
ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this month to counter an 
alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential 
staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.

   But President Donald Trump appears to have softened his tone in recent days, 
saying he expects Iran to seek negotiations with his administration. Asked on 
Thursday if the U.S. might be on a path to war with Iran, the president 
answered, "I hope not."

   The current tensions are rooted in Trump's decision last year to withdraw 
the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose 
wide-reaching sanctions, including on Iranian oil exports that are crucial to 
its economy.

   Iran has said it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels if a new 
nuclear deal is not reached by July 7. That would potentially  bring it closer 
to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran insists it has never 
sought.

   Energy ministers from OPEC and its allies, including major producers Saudi 
Arabia and Russia, are meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss energy 
prices and production cuts. Iran's oil exports are expected to shrink further 
in the coming months after the U.S. stopped renewing waivers that allowed it to 
continue selling to some countries.

   OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers have production cuts in place, but the group 
of exporters is not expected to make its decision on output until late June, 
when they meet again in Vienna.

   Saudi Arabia's King Salman, meanwhile, has called for a meeting of Arab 
heads of state on May 30 in Mecca to discuss the latest developments, including 
the oil pipeline attack.

   The kingdom has blamed the pipeline attack on Iran, accusing Tehran of 
arming the rebel Houthis, which a Saudi-led coalition has been at war with in 
Yemen since 2015. Iran denies arming or training the rebels, who control much 
of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

   "We want peace and stability in the region, but we won't stand with our 
hands bound as the Iranians continuously attack. Iran has to understand that," 
al-Jubeir said. "The ball is in Iran's court."

   Al-Jubeir also noted that an investigation, led by the UAE, into the tanker 
incident is underway.

   The state-run Saudi news agency reported Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State 
Mike Pompeo called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss regional 
developments. There was no immediate statement by the State Department about 
the call.

   An English-language Saudi newspaper close to the palace recently published 
an editorial calling for surgical U.S. airstrikes in retaliation for Iran's 
alleged involvement in targeting Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure.

   The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami, was quoted 
Sunday as saying Iran is not looking for war, But he said the U.S. is going to 
fail in the near future "because they are frustrated and hopeless" and are 
looking for a way out of the current escalation. His comments, given to other 
Guard commanders, were carried by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency.


(KA)

 
 
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