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Iran denies attacking Saudi oil sites, derides US ‘maximum deceit’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto (not pictured) at the foreign ministry on Feb. 11, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary. Among the topics discussed was the debate over Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company whom the U.S. accuses of stealing trade secrets and violating Iran sanctions. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty images/TNS)

Iran on Sunday denied involvement in high-stakes military strikes on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities and derided “maximum deceit” by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who blamed Iran for the attacks.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels said they launched drones Saturday that struck the world’s largest oil processing facility and a major oil field. The installations, operated by state-owned Saudi Aramco, produce up to 70% of the country’s crude oil output.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the U.S. “maximum pressure” strategy has devolved to a “maximum lie” against Iran. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Pompeo of “maximum deceit.”

“U.S. & its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory,” Zarif tweeted. “Blaming Iran won’t end disaster. Accepting our … proposal to end war & begin talks may.”

Pompeo said the Iranian government was behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Zarif “pretend” to engage in diplomacy. Pompeo said there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen, but did not provide proof the attacks came from Iran.

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“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo said.

Muhammad al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi rebel leader, told The Associated Press the U.S. claims that Iran was behind the attack reflected “political bankruptcy” of the Trump administration. He said the rebels were able to exploit “vulnerabilities” in Saudi air defense systems.

The attacks resulted in a temporary suspension of production at Abqaiq and Khurais plants, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency. It led to the interruption of about half the kingdom’s total production, he said. That is about half the world’s daily oil production.

Associated gas production also was derailed, he said.

Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said no one was injured in the attacks. He said work was under way to restore production and a progress update would be provided in the next two days.

President Donald Trump discussed the attacks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call Saturday to “offer his support for Saudi Arabia’s self-defense,” according to White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

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© 2019 USA Today