Saudi Arabia unveils extraordinary ‘evidence’
Saudi Arabia has presented fragments of 18 drones and seven cruise missiles as "material evidence" Iran is behind the attack on the nation's top oil field at an extraordinary press conference on Wednesday.
The Saudi Defence Ministry presented shards of missiles and drones, laid out on white cloths, in front of an audience of media and diplomats.
Colonel Turki al-Maliki said the collection, combined with analysis of the precision and direction of the attack showed it was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran."
He described the attack as "an assault on international humanity, a deliberate attempt to disrupt the global economy" and said the range of missiles showed it could "never be launched from Yemen".
Showing the wing of a drone, he claimed data recovered from the computers show "it's Iranian," he said.
He said 18 drones had been fired at the Abqauiq oil facility, while seven cruise missiles had been launched at other targets - all from a northerly direction.
The colonel said the launch points for the missiles could not be given yet but would be announced at another press conference. He said Iran's denial had been a "false narrative".
It comes as President Trump said he had ordered to "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran in a stark escalation of the simmering regional conflict.
Iran threatened it would retaliate against any action "immediately", with state-run news agency IRNA saying: "If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran's answer immediately."
IRNA also claimed Iran's president and foreign minister could skip next week's meeting at the United Nations as they were yet to receive visas for the US.
The meeting had previously been seen as an opportunity for the kind of direct talks President Trump has sought with other fractious global relationships such as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russia's President Putin.
However President Trump appeared to have cooled on the idea saying he would "prefer not" to meet his Iranian counterpart. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out negotiations "at any level."
'REAL TEST' OF GLOBAL WILL
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - the de facto ruler of the nation - said the oil strike was a "real test" of global will in a phone call with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in.
He was also urged by Britain's leader Boris Johnson to form a "collective response" and "continue working with international partners."
The stark escalation in the volatile region comes after a September 14 attack on oil plants that knocked out half of Saudi Arabia's production at the time and sent oil prices soaring.
Yemen's Houthi group - an Iranian ally - have claimed responsibility saying they used drones for the assault on Aramco's sites, while Tehran has denied any involvement.
"We don't want conflict in the region … Who started the conflict?" Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said.
But US officials and Saudi Arabia believe Iran is responsible. Officials have claimed the strike originated in southwestern Iran and its believed to have involved much more sophisticated weaponry than the Huthis have access to.
One official told Reuters neither the type of drone "nor the cruise missiles employed in the attack can reach the facilities from Yemen. It's not possible," the official said.
The attack comes against a backdrop of increasing tension between the US and Iran, after President Trump pulled out of the 2015 peace deal that capped Iranian nuclear progress in exchange for lifting of economic sanctions.
That has been replaced by a "maximum pressure" campaign under President Trump and National Security Adviser John Bolton. Mr Bolton has since stepped down and been replaced by Robert C. O'Brien in the role, Trump announced on Wednesday.
President Trump has previously said he does not want war but that the US is "locked and loaded".
Saudi Arabia is the world's top oil exporter and produces 5.7 million barrels a day, which is expected to be restored at the end of the month.
Earlier this week Saudi Arabia announced it would join the International Maritime Security Construct operating in the Strait of Hormuz - of which the US and Australia are members, in order to support peaceful trade - after high profile stoushes with British tankers in the region.
- With wires