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At UN France, UK, Germany state Iran was responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities

France, the UK and Germany said on September 23  that it is clear Iran was responsible for the drone and cruise missile strikes on Saudi oil facilities that took place on September 14 and called on Tehran to agree to negotiations on its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and regional security issues.

“The time has come for Iran to accept a long-term negotiation framework for its nuclear programme, as well as regional security issues, which include its missile programmes,” the three governments said in a joint statement.

Tehran has flatly denied any involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, an Iran-aligned group fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war. Iran has threatened a crushing response to any retaliatory military strike made on it in retribution for the attacks in Saudi Arabia, although it has also said Tehran has no desire for conflict in the Gulf region.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met during the annual United Nations General Assembly coming together of world leaders in New York to coordinate their strategy on Iran. The major European powers are seeking to save the 2015 nuclear deal and defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran. It may be that they are attempting to offer US President Donald Trump a face-saving way out of his confrontation with the Islamic Republic. Trump is in danger of being sucked into a Middle East military conflict ahead of his 2020 re-election bid, and that may not go down well with many of his core voters.

“It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation,” a statement by the three European leaders said.

The three countries said that they remained committed to the nuclear deal, which is supposed to protect Iran from major sanctions in return for compliance with measures designed to bar any path it could feasibly take to developing a nuclear weapon. Iran has in recent months been gradually reducing its compliance with the accord, claiming that the Europeans were breaching the deal themselves by failing to protect the Iranian economy from Trump’s heavy sanctions campaign. In their statement, the European leaders demanded Iran return to full compliance with the nuclear deal.

“We are committed to continuing our diplomatic efforts to create conditions and facilitate dialogue with all relevant partners interested in de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East,” they said.

In the wake of the attacks on Saudi Arabia, Trump introduced more sanctions against Iran. But critics largely saw them as cosmetic, taking the line that in terms of sanctions the US had already more or less thrown everything it can at the Iranians.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on September 23 noted the new. sanctions blacklisted Iran’s central bank for a second time. That pointed to US “desperation” in the face of Iranian resistance, he said.

“Americans are sanctioning institutions that have already been blacklisted. This signals America’s complete desperation and shows that it’s ‘maximum pressure’ has failed ... as the great Iranian nation has resisted successfully,” Rouhani said in remarks carried by Iranian state television.

At the UN General Assembly, Rouhani is to present a regional peace plan dubbed HOPE (Hormuz Peace Endeavour).

“All countries of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and the United Nations are invited to join,” Rouhani said before leaving for New York.

Also on September 23, Iran called on England to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. “The government of England, instead of carrying out fruitless efforts against the Islamic Republic of Iran, should take action to stop selling deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is the request of many people in the world, and release themselves from accusations of committing war crimes against the people of Yemen,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency.