PM accuses Iran of being behind attacks on Saudi oil facilities
Boris Johnson has said he wants a new nuclear deal with Iran, after he accused the Islamic republic of being behind the attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
The Prime Minister entered a war of words with Iran, shortly before he was due to meet President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations in New York.
Mr Johnson said that the UK could attribute blame with a “very high degree of probability” to Iran, and declined to rule out military assistance.
Iran countered by rejecting the PM’s remarks and criticised “fruitless efforts against the Islamic republic of Iran”.
“The British Government should stop selling lethal weapons to Saudi Arabia” over the war in Yemen, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi added to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
In an interview at the residence of the UK consulate general in New York, Mr Johnson called for a new nuclear deal on Iran after the US abandoned it.
“What the UK is doing is trying to bring people together, trying to de-escalate tensions, come up with a solution for the Gulf region, and my own view very strongly is, whatever your objections with the old nuclear deal with Iran, it’s time now to move forward and do a new deal,” the PM said.
“So we’ll be working with our EU friends and the Americans to try and encourage that way of thinking.”
He is due to meet US President Donald Trump and Mr Rouhani in separate bilateral meetings on Tuesday.
The US and Saudi Arabia had already accused Iran of being behind the September 14 raids on the world’s largest oil processor and an oil field, causing a spike in prices.
But Mr Johnson gave the first attribution of blame from the UK before landing in the US in the early hours of Monday UK-time, as he flew to the States.
Tehran has issued denials.
“I can tell you that the UK is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran for the Aramco attacks,” he said.
“We think it very likely indeed that Iran was indeed responsible for using both UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), both drones and cruise missiles.
“Clearly the difficulty is, how do we organise a global response? What is the way forward?
“And we will be working with our American friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region.”
The PM said he would “follow very closely” American proposals to do more to defend Saudi Arabia, with Tehran’s ire being further provoked by the US-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways.
“And clearly if we are asked either by the Saudis or the Americans to have a role then we would consider in what way we could be useful,” he said.
Asked if military action was possible, he replied: “We will consider in what way we could be useful if asked, and depending on what the exact plan is.”
Sanctions also remained on the table.
The PM said he would bring up the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals being held in Tehran when he meets Mr Rouhani.
Mr Johnson has come under intense criticism over his handling of the British-Iranian mother’s case as foreign secretary.
She is midway through a five-year jail sentence for spying charges, which she has always denied.
“In the course of my conversation with president Rouhani, I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region, but also the need to release not just Nazanin but others who in our view are being illegally and unfairly held in Tehran,” he said.
The UK was dismissing claims by Yemen’s Houthi movement that it was behind the Aramco attacks.
A Whitehall source said: “The Houthis’ claim of responsibility is implausible.
“Imagery from the site of the attack shows the remnants of Iranian-made land attack cruise missiles and the scale, sophistication and range of the attack is inconsistent with the Houthis’ capability.”