Saturday 19 October 2019

Saudi prince warns of 'unimaginably high' oil prices due to Iran

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Matt Spetalnick

Saudi Arabia's crown prince warned in an interview that oil prices could spike to "unimaginably high numbers" if the world doesn't come together to deter Iran, but said he preferred a political solution to a military one.

Speaking to the CBS programme '60 Minutes', Mohammed bin Salman also denied ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives last year, but said he ultimately bears "full responsibility" as the kingdom's de facto leader.

While Mr Khashoggi's death sparked a global uproar and tarnished the crown prince's reputation, the Trump administration's tense standoff with Saudi arch-foe Iran has more recently dominated US policy toward Riyadh, especially after the September 14 attacks on the heart of the Saudi oil industry.

"If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests," Prince Mohammed said through a translator. "Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven't seen in our lifetimes."

He said he agreed with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the attacks, which knocked out more than 5pc of global oil supply, were an act of war by Iran.

But he said he preferred a peaceful resolution because regional war would collapse the global economy. The United States, European powers and Saudi Arabia have blamed the attacks on Iran, which denies involvement. Instead, Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility.

Prince Mohammed also said US President Donald Trump should meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to craft a new deal on Tehran's nuclear programme and regional activities. Efforts to bring the two together last week at the United Nations failed.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated after the US withdrew last year from a 2015 nuclear deal and reinstated sanctions against Tehran.

Days before the anniversary of Mr Khashoggi's murder, Prince Mohammed said: "Absolutely not," when asked if he had ordered it. But he said he took full responsibility "since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government".

"This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future."

The CIA and some Western governments believe Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, but Saudi officials have repeatedly said he had no role.

Asked about the CIA assessment, Prince Mohammed asked for "such information" to be revealed.

Irish Independent

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