Trump seeks to avoid war with Iran after attack on Saudi oil plants
US President says he wants 'definitive' proof Iran triggered strike on Saudi Arabia
WASHINGTON/DUBAI US President Donald Trump on Monday said it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia but stressed he did not want to go to war as oil prices soared and raised fears of a new Middle East conflict.
Iran has rejected US charges it was behind the strikes on Saturday that damaged the world's biggest crude-processing plant and triggered the largest jump in crude prices in decades.
Relations between the US and Iran have deteriorated since Mr Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord last year and reimposed sanctions over Teheran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
Washington also wants to pressure Teheran to end its support of regional proxy forces, including in Yemen, where Saudi forces have been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis for four years.
The US is still investigating if Iran was behind the Saudi strikes, Mr Trump said, but "it's certainly looking that way at this moment".
Mr Trump made clear, however, he was not going to rush into a new conflict on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
"I'm somebody that would like not to have war," he said.
Several US Cabinet members, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have blamed Teheran for the strikes.
Mr Pompeo and others will travel to Saudi Arabia soon, Mr Trump said.
A day after saying the US was "locked and loaded" to respond to the incident, Mr Trump said on Monday there was "no rush" to do so.
"We have a lot of options but I'm not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this," he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the strikes were carried out by "Yemeni people" retaliating for attacks by a Saudi-led military coalition in a war with the Houthi movement.
"Yemeni people are exercising their legitimate right of defence," he told reporters.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the allegations "unacceptable and entirely baseless".
The attacks cut 5 per cent of world crude oil production.
Oil prices surged by as much as 19 per cent after the incidents but later came off peaks. The intraday jump was the biggest since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia said the attacks were carried out with Iranian weapons, adding it was capable of responding forcefully and urging UN experts to help investigate the raid. - REUTERS