Britain, France, Germany join US in blam­ing Iran for at­tack

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Edith M. Led­erer and Jill Law­less

UNITED NA­TIONS — Britain, France and Germany joined the United States on Mon­day in blam­ing Iran for at­tacks on key oil fa­cil­i­ties in Saudi Ara­bia, but the Ira­nian for­eign min­is­ter pointed to claims of re­spon­si­bil­ity by Ye­meni rebels and said: “If Iran were be­hind this at­tack, noth­ing would have been left of this re­fin­ery.”

Fall­out from the Sept. 14 at­tacks is still re­ver­ber­at­ing as world lead­ers gather for their an­nual meet­ing at the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly and in­ter­na­tional ex­perts con­tinue, at Saudi Ara­bia’s re­quest, to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened and who was re­spon­si­ble.

The lead­ers of the U.K., France and Germany — who remain par­ties to the 2015 Iran nu­clear deal — said in a state­ment that “there is no other plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion” than that “Iran bears re­spon­si­bil­ity for this at­tack.”

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son said late Sun­day while fly­ing to New York that the U.K. is now “at­tribut­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity with a very high de­gree of prob­a­bil­ity to Iran” for the at­tacks by drones and cruise mis­siles on the world’s largest oil pro­ces­sor and an oil field. He said the U.K. would con­sider tak­ing part in a U.S.-led mil­i­tary ef­fort to bol­ster Saudi Ara­bia’s de­fenses.

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, de­nied any part in the at­tacks. He said Ye­men’s Houthi rebels, who claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, “have every rea­son to re­tal­i­ate” for the Saudi-led coali­tion’s aerial at­tacks on their coun­try.

He also stressed that on the eve of Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani’s visit to the United Na­tions — which sits in the mid­dle of New York City — “it would be stupid for Iran to en­gage in such ac­tiv­ity.”

France has been try­ing to find a diplo­matic so­lu­tion to U.S.-Ira­nian ten­sions, which soared af­ter the Saudi at­tacks.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said at a news con­fer­ence at the U.N. that he planned to meet sep­a­rately with both Trump and Rouhani over the next day and would work to fos­ter “the con­di­tions for dis­cus­sion” and not es­ca­la­tion.

Macron called the Sept. 14 strikes “a game-changer, clearly” but re­it­er­ated a will­ing­ness to me­di­ate.

Zarif, how­ever, ruled out any Iran-U.S. meet­ing. He said Iran had re­ceived no re­quest from the U.S., “and we have made clear that a re­quest alone will not do the job.”

He said Trump “closed the door to ne­go­ti­a­tions” with the lat­est U.S. sanc­tions, which la­beled the coun­try’s cen­tral bank a “global ter­ror­ist” in­sti­tu­tion — a des­ig­na­tion the Ira­nian min­is­ter said the U.S. pres­i­dent and his suc­ces­sors may not be able to change.

“I know that Pres­i­dent Trump did not want to do that. I know he must have been mis­in­formed,” said Zarif, meet­ing with U.N. cor­re­spon­dents Mon­day.

Zarif said he plans to meet Wed­nes­day with min­is­ters of the five coun­tries re­main­ing in the 2015 nu­clear deal from which Trump with­drew — Rus­sia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

John­son, the U.K. prime min­is­ter, urged Trump to strike a new nu­clear deal with Iran. While Britain still backs the ex­ist­ing agree­ment and wants Iran to stick to its terms, John­son said in the long term, there should be a new agree­ment.

Asked later Mon­day about John­son’s sug­ges­tion, Trump said he re­spects John­son and be­lieves the cur­rent agree­ment ex­pires too soon.

Shortly be­fore leav­ing for the U.N. meet­ings Mon­day, Iran’s Rouhani said on state tele­vi­sion that his coun­try will invite Per­sian Gulf na­tions to join an Ira­nian-led coali­tion “to guar­an­tee the re­gion’s se­cu­rity.”

Mean­while Mon­day, Ira­nian gov­ern­ment spokesman Ali Ra­biei sug­gested the re­lease of a Bri­tish-flagged oil tanker held by Tehran since July would be im­mi­nent, though he doesn’t know when the ves­sel will leave.

CRAIG RUT­TLE/AP

Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif arrives for the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Mon­day.

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