The Latest: Saudi says Yemen rebels launch new drone attack
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on developments in the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere in the Mideast amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local):
Saudi Arabia says Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched a bomb-laden drone targeting civilian infrastructure in a city along the kingdom’s border to Yemen.
A statement early Tuesday on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki as saying the Houthis “had tried to target” the site in Najran.
The statement did not elaborate, but used a word in Arabic that often refers to hospitals, power plants and schools. The Houthis did not immediately claim an attack there.
It was not clear if there were any injuries. Al-Maliki warned there would be a “strong deterrent” to such attacks and described the Houthis as the “terrorist militias of Iran.”
Last week, the Houthis launched a coordinated drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.
Iran is urging U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to help launch a diplomatic dialogue to ease the current “alarming security situation” in the broader Persian Gulf region.
Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said in a letter to the U.N. chief and the Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press that the United Nations must not remain indifferent “to addressing the root causes of the current state of affairs.”
He accused “certain circles from outside of this region” of provocative policies, and escalating tensions in the Middle East.
Ravanchi warned that “the eruption of any possible conflict will soon cross over from the regional level and will definitely have serious and extensive implications on international peace and security.”
The ambassador added that Iran “will never choose war,” but that “if war is imposed on us, Iran will vigorously exercise its inherent right to self-defense.”
The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is asking all parties involved in escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran “to lower the rhetoric and lower the threshold of action as well.”
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated to reporters Monday that “we are concerned about the rising rhetoric.”
He said the secretary-general is also concerned at the rocket launch that seemed to be aimed toward the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Dujarrics said: “It is a very volatile region. Any developments, whether they are actions on the ground or whether they are rhetoric, can always be misinterpreted and can only heighten the risk of a volatile region becoming even more volatile.”
Saudi Arabia is warning that recent drone attacks against its oil pumping stations by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels will jeopardize U.N. peace efforts in the country and lead to further escalation in the region.
The Saudi U.N. ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said “seven explosive drones” directed by the rebels attacked pumping stations May 14 in the cities of Dawadmi and Afif “on the east-west oil pipeline that transfers Saudi oil to Yanbu port and to the rest of the world.”
He urged Security Council members in a letter circulated Monday “to disarm this terrorist militia in order to prevent the escalation of these attacks which increase regional tensions and raise the risks of a broader regional confrontation.”
Saudi Arabia views the Shiite Houthis as Iran’s proxies in Yemen’s four-year civil war, and has accused Tehran of providing arms to the rebels.
Semi-official news agencies in Iran are reporting that Iran has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium amid tensions with the U.S. over an unraveling atomic accord.
The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies both reported the news Monday.
They both say that the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
However, a quadrupling of production would mean that Iran likely will go beyond the stockpile limitations set by the deal.
Iran says it has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, of its decision. The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal with Iran a year ago.
Iran’s foreign minister has met with his visiting counterpart from Oman, a Gulf nation that in the past has served as an intermediary between the United States and the Islamic Republic.
The official IRNA news agency reported the meeting Monday between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Oman’s foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi. It says they discussed regional and international issues, without providing further details.
Oman has mediated between Washington and Tehran in the past, including during the early stages of the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The talks some amid heightened tensions in the region, with the U.S. sending warships and bombers to counter alleged, unspecified threats from Iran. The crisis is rooted in President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord last year and impose sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Britain’s foreign secretary is warning Iran not to “underestimate the resolve of the U.S.” amid heightened tensions across the Persian Gulf.
Jeremy Hunt told journalists in Geneva on Monday that U.S. leaders “are not seeking a conflict, they don’t want a war with Iran, but if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate. And that is something that the Iranians need to think about very, very carefully.”
Hunt added that Britain has had a lot of discussions with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over Iran. He said he hopes Iran starts to “pull back from the destabilizing activities” it conducts in the region.
The foreign secretary acknowledged the danger the tensions posed for the wider Mideast.
Hunt says: “We want the situation to de-escalate because this is a part of the world where things can get triggered accidentally.”
Iran’s foreign minister has criticized President Donald Trump for his overnight tweet threatening to the Islamic Republic with its “official end.”
Mohammad Javad Zarif posted his own message Monday on Twitter, saying Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts.”
Zarif wrote that Trump “hopes to achieve what Alexander (the Great), Genghis (Khan) & other aggressors failed to do.”
He added: “Iranians have stood tall for a millennia while aggressors all gone.”
He ended his tweet with #neverthreatenaniranian and: “Try respect - it works!”
Two influential Shiite figures in Iraq are warning from pulling their country into a war between the United States and Iran, saying it would turn Iraq into a battlefield and inflict much harm.
Their comments came few hours after a rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. No injuries were reported.
Iraq’s populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said in a statement on Monday that any political party that would involve Iraq in a U.S.-Iran war “would be the enemy of the Iraqi people.”
Qais al-Khazali, the leader of an Iranian-backed group, said he is opposed to operations that “give pretexts for war.”
As U.S.-Iran tensions escalate, there’ve been concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle.
A Saudi-owned satellite news channel says Yemen’s Houthi rebels have fired two missiles into the kingdom that later were intercepted.
Al-Arabiya reported on Monday that the two missiles were intercepted over the city of Taif and the Red Sea port city of Jiddah.
The channel cited witnesses for the information. The Saudi government has yet to acknowledge the missile fire, which other Saudi media also reported.
The Houthis made no official claims to the missile fire.
Between the two cities is Mecca, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray toward five times a day. Many religious pilgrims are now in the city amid the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
President Donald Trump has warned Iran not to threaten the U.S. again or it’ll face its “official end,” shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight.
The tweet comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the culmination of Trump’s decision a year ago to pull America out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Trump’s tweeted early Monday: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”
Trump did not elaborate, nor did the White House. However, the tweet came after a rocket landed less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone Sunday night.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket launch.