Military strike against Iran would result in ‘all-out war’: Zarif

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Any U.S. or Saudi military strike against Iran would bring “all-out war”, Tehran said on Thursday, keeping up a drumbeat of warnings to its adversaries after they accused the Islamic Republic of a strike on Saudi oil facilities.

The United States has been discussing with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies possible responses to Saturday’s attack, which they blame on Iran and which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described as an act of war on the kingdom.

“I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want war; we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation … But we won’t blink to defend our territory,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told CNN in an interview.

Asked what the consequence of an American or a Saudi military strike on Iran would be, Zarif said “an all-out war”.

Zarif earlier warned on Twitter that what he described as the B team – including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – was deceiving U.S. President Donald Trump into a war against Iran.

Meanwhile, a senior advisor to Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Gulf countries to “come to their senses”, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“They (U.S. and Saudi Arabia) have realized that playing with the tail of a lion is highly dangerous and that if they take action against Iran at any time, they know there will be no tomorrow for them in the region,” Fars quoted Hossein Dehghan as saying.

Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia is leading a Sunni Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in the impoverished state on the tip of the Arabian peninsula – part of a regional proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh across the Middle East.

Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks, which was claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.

“They accuse Iran because they don’t believe the oppressed Yemeni nation has reached such a capability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, state news agency IRNA reported.

MANY OPTIONS SHORT OF WAR

Trump struck a cautious note on Wednesday. He said there were many options short of war with Iran, which denies involvement in the Sept. 14 strikes that initially halved Saudi oil output. He ordered more sanctions on Tehran.

Zarif also said in a tweet on Thursday that Pompeo was trying to delay issuing visas for the Iranian delegation to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

Trump said he is not looking to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a U.N. event in New York later this month, where Pompeo said the Aramco attacks would be a major focus and suggested Riyadh could make its case there.Tensions have been high between arch foes Washington and Tehran since last year, when President Donald Trump quit Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran that had a crippling impact on its oil-reliant economy.

Trump said on Wednesday he had ordered his Treasury Secretary to substantially increase sanctions on Iran. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh accused Washington of using oil as a “weapon”, Iranian Oil Ministry’s news website SHANA reported.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by William MacleanOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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