Iran rules out Rouhani-Trump meeting amid fears of conflict over Saudi Aramco strikes

Iran rules out Rouhani-Trump meeting amid fears of conflict over Saudi Aramco strikes
3 min read
16 September, 2019
Tehran has repeatedly rejected talks with the US, which has accused Iran of masterminding attacks on oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
Iran has called the US accusations 'fruitless and blind' [Getty]
Iran said on Monday President Hassan Rouhani would not hold talks with his US counterpart at the United Nations as tensions continue to escalate after Washington accused Tehran of masterminding drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure.

The White House said on Sunday that President Donald Trump was considering meeting Rouhani on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly session in New York.

Tehran however has repeatedly rejected such a meeting, with state media on Monday reporting that the meeting would not take place.

Talks between the two had earlier been floated after the resignation of National Security Advisor John Bolton last week.

Analysts hoped that the exit of hardline anti-Iran Bolton - he architect of Washington's "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran - would provide an opening for compromise.

It was just last week that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Trump would be willing to meet with the Iranian leader with "no conditions".

Saturday's attacks on the Abqaiq plant, the world's largest oil processing facility, and nearby Khurais, which hosts a massive oil field, have thrown a wrench in such aspirations.

The drone attacks triggered multiple explosions, forcing the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company to temporarily suspend production at the two key facilities, interrupting about half of the company's total output and cutting around 5 percent of the global crude supply, according to Saudi officials.

The attack came ahead of a much-anticipated listing of Aramco stocks on global markets.

The Iran-linked Houthi rebels, against whom Saudi Arabia has helmed a coalition war in Yemen since 2015, claimed the drone strikes.

But US officials have instead accused Iran of perpetrating the attacks, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying on Saturday that the "unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply" could not have been launched from Yemen.

Earlier this year US officials said they had evidence that attacks on Saudi oil facilities claimed by Yemen's Houthis in May were in fact launched by Iran-backed militants in Iraq.

Iraq however has denied involvement in Saturday's attacks.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that a meeting between Trump and Rouhani in New York was not on the Iranian agenda and would not take place.

He also hit back at US Senator Lindsey Graham who on Sunday urged the Trump administration to consider putting "an attack on Iranian oil refineries" on the table, calling the top Republican's remarks "nonsense".

President Trump on Sunday called claims by senior US officials that he was willing to meet with Rouhani without any preconditions "fake news". 

He also warned that the US was "locked and loaded" to respond to the attacks when Saudi Arabia confirms the culprit.

Fears of conflict have escalated over the weekend, with Iran saying it is "ready for war" following the "fruitless and blind" US accusations of its complicity in the drone strikes.

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