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Saudi sabre-rattling at Iran

Saudi Arabia does not want war but will not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top Saudi diplomat said Sunday, after the kingdom's energy sector was targeted this past week amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Adel al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke a week after four oil tankers— two of them Saudi— were targeted in an alleged act of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and days after Iran-allied Yemeni rebels claimed a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the region and does not strive for that... but at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will fight this with all force and determination and it will defend itself, its citizens and its interests," al-Jubeir told reporters.

A senior Iranian military commander was similarly quoted as saying his country is not looking for war, in comments published in Iranian media on Sunday.

Fears of armed conflict were already running high after the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this month to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.

But President Donald Trump appears to have softened his tone in recent days, saying he expects Iran to seek negotiations with his administration. Asked on Thursday if the U.S. might be on a path to war with Iran, the president answered, "I hope not."

The U.S. Navy said Sunday it had conducted exercises in the Arabian Sea with the aircraft carrier strike group ordered to the region to counter the unspecified threat from Iran. The Navy said the exercises and training were conducted Friday and Saturday with the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group in co-ordination with the U.S. Marine Corps, highlighting U.S. "lethality and agility to respond to threat," as well as to deter conflict and preserve U.S. strategic interests.

The current tensions are rooted in Trump's decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions, including on Iranian oil exports that are crucial to its economy.

Iran has said it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels if a new nuclear deal is not reached by July 7. That wouldpotentially bring it closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran insists it has never sought.



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